If you’re like most people, you probably don’t think about cavities until you have a toothache. But the fact is, cavities are a common dental problem that can affect anyone. In this blog post, we will discuss how long it takes cavities to form, and the different types of cavities that can occur. We will also explain the five stages of tooth decay, and what happens during each stage. So if you’re interested in learning more about cavity formation and tooth decay, keep reading!
Types of Cavities
There are three different types of cavities: smooth surface, pit and fissure, and root cavities.
- Smooth surface cavities form on the smooth surfaces of your teeth, such as the sides and in between the teeth.
- Pit and fissure cavities are the most common type of cavity, and they occur on the chewing surfaces of your teeth, especially in the molars and premolars.
- Root cavities occur on the root surfaces of your teeth, which are exposed when your gums recede.
The Five Stages of Tooth Decay
Now let’s discuss the five stages of tooth decay:
The earliest stage of tooth decay is demineralization of the enamel. This occurs when the bacteria in plaque produce acids that attack the enamel, and dissolve its mineral composition. This can be seen on the teeth as small white spots. If caught early on, demineralization may be able to be reversed using fluoride treatments, which provide necessary minerals to repair the damage.
In stage two, a cavity, or hole in the tooth, will start to form. The cavities are small at this stage, and only affect the enamel layer. At this stage, a cavity can have a brownish color.
In stage three, the cavities become larger and start to destroy the underlying dentin. Dentin is a softer tissue than enamel, so it is more susceptible to damage. This also means that the rate of decay increases once a cavity reaches the dentin layer. Since dentin is also composed of small tubes that lead to the nerve of the tooth, you may start to experience tooth sensitivity at this stage.
In stage four, the cavities continue to grow and reach the pulp of the tooth. The pulp is the innermost layer of the tooth, and it contains the blood vessels and nerves. When decay reaches the pulp, it causes a painful infection known as pulpitis. This infection must be removed with root canal therapy in order to save the tooth.
In stage five, the cavities have reached the pulp and extensive damage has been done to the tooth. At this stage, an abscess forms at the base of the tooth roots. This can cause fever, swollen lymph nodes, swelling, and pain. To prevent the infection from spreading to the jawbone or other parts of the face, the tooth is usually extracted.
The Bottom Line
How fast or slow a cavity develops depends on a number of factors such as diet, oral hygiene, and genetic predisposition. In most cases, it takes months to years to form a stage 4-5 cavity. This is also assuming that previous dental care was not sought when the cavity was at a stage 2-3. As mentioned above, cavities in the dentin also progress faster than those affecting the enamel.
Overall, it is best to minimize the risk of cavities by practicing good oral hygiene and eating a balanced diet without excess sugar. However, if you do develop a cavity, be sure to visit your dentist as soon as possible so they can treat it before it gets worse.
If you have any questions about cavities or tooth decay, please contact our office today. We would be happy to schedule a dental exam and answer any of your questions!