The Stages of Tooth Decay

Tooth decay never happens all at once. Prevention and early detection are always ideal when it comes to fighting cavities, which is why we always stress proper treatment and care at our Williston restorative dentistry center.

We'd like to look at the different stages of tooth decay right now so you understand all of your options for treatment and why treating a problem sooner rather than later is always ideal.


The first stage of gum disease involves the initial formation of a lesion on the tooth. This does not show up as tooth decay in dental x-rays, but it is a sign that demineralization has started to occur and is affecting the tooth enamel, the topmost layer of the tooth. This initial lesion generally takes the form of whitened or brown tooth structure.

When it comes to treating this early stage of tooth decay, there are plenty of remineralization options available. Dentists may recommend dental sealants, fluoride treatments, and a thorough cleaning of the teeth. Patients can also practice better dental hygiene at home to help prevent the cavity from progressing any further.


Enamel decay refers to an instance in which the tooth enamel has begun to breakdown. At this point, the damaged portion of the tooth structure is visible in dental x-rays. Serious enamel decay could lead to tooth sensitivity.

When treating enamel decay, the most common treatment options tend to involve the use of dental fillings. These will help rebuild the damaged tooth structure and prevent further decay from occurring. Dental fillings come in tooth-colored and metal forms. The most ideal option for you and your needs can be discussed during your dental visit.


Dentin is the underlying layer of tooth structure below the tooth enamel. Unlike enamel, dentin is porous. When tooth decay impacts the dentin, this can lead to much more severe tooth sensitivity. The tooth sensitivity is most pronounced when someone eats or drinks a food item or beverage that is hot or cold in temperature.

For dentin decay, the most common treatment options involve more advanced dental restorations, such as inlays, onlays, and dental crowns. These advanced restorations work on similar principles as dental fillings but can restore larger parts of a tooth's structure.


Inside of every tooth is soft tissue known as dental pulp. This dental pulp is comprised of nerves, blood vessels, and connective tissue that were all essential for the initial formation of the tooth. When bacteria reaches the pulp inside of a tooth, this is known as a root canal infection

To treat a root canal infection, endodontic therapy is performed. This will involve the removal of the diseased dental pulp, the cleaning and sterilization of the pulp chamber, filling the pulp chamber with an inert material, and capping the treated tooth with a dental crown.


An abscess refers to an accumulation of pus that form in response to an infection. An abscess can be a serious health problem, resulting in a major general infection and other health issues if the abscess bursts. At this point, the tooth decay is more than just a dental wellness issue.

When treating an oral abscess, it's important to seek professional attention. The abscess will be carefully drained, and patients will be given antibiotics as well. The severely decayed tooth may require extraction by this stage.


For more information about tooth decay and how dentists can treat and prevent cavities from forming, be sure to contact our cosmetic and restorative dentistry center today. We will help you have a healthy and beautiful smile.