The Stages of Tooth Decay

Posted Sep 19th, 2019

The Stages of Tooth Decay

Left untreated, tooth decay can become serious, and can eventually lead to tooth loss. Here, our Calgary dentists describe the stages of tooth decay, and what can be done to prevent it.


Stage 1: White Spots

When tooth decay first starts to develop, it presents as a chalky white area on the surface of the tooth. This is due to a combination of the loss of calcium and build-up of plaque, a process called demineralization. In stage one, tooth decay might still be reversible with prompt preventive measures, such as proper brushing technique, the use of a fluoride toothpaste, and the application of a topical fluoride treatment.

Stage 2: Enamel Decay

During stage two, acid plaque attacks the tooth enamel, and it begins to break down. The natural remineralization process is unable to restore the enamel, resulting in a lesion on the tooth.

Stage 3: Dentin Decay

Dentin decay is when acid plaque works its way through the enamel and reaches the dentin. The dentin is the part between the outer enamel and the inner pulp of the tooth. Once the decay breaks through the dental enamel to the dentin, a cavity is formed. At this point, a dental filling will be required to restore the tooth.

Stage 4: Infection of The Pulp

The pulp at the centre of a tooth is composed of living tissue and cells. If the pulp of a tooth is infected with bacteria, pus will form, killing the blood vessels and nerves in the tooth. At this stage, root canal therapy will be needed to clean out the infected tissue and seal the interior of the tooth off from further decay.

Stage 5: Abscess Formation

Abscess formation is the final and most painful stage of tooth decay. Once the infection reaches the tip of the tooth root, the attached bone is at risk of infection as well. At this stage oral surgery may need to be performed.

Stage 6: Tooth Loss

If decay is left untreated through each stage, the tooth will eventually become damaged beyond repair, and will have to be extracted.

Preventing Tooth Decay

Establishing a good oral care routine that involves the following preventive measures will help you avoid tooth decay:

  • Visiting the Dentist – Visit the dentist every six months for a professional dental cleaning and checkup.
  • A Robust Oral Hygiene Routine – Use toothpastes and mouthwashes with fluoride and brush with an electric toothbrush. Floss at least once a day as well. 
  • Eating Less Sugar – Oral bacteria thrive on sugar, so choose low-sugar meals and snacks.
  • Drinking More Water – Staying hydrated can help produce saliva, which helps wash away oral bacteria and food debris.

If you have questions about tooth decay and how to avoid it, please feel free to contact our Calgary dental office any time to book an appointment.

Book your appointment today!

We're open 7 days a week for your convenience. 

Book Online

Book Online (403) 271-6300