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Tooth decay is a type of damage that leads to a cavity needing further attention and treatment. The earlier you discover tooth decay, the easier it is for your dentist to treat your situation. It is vital to know that tooth decay occurs in several stages and does not happen overnight.

Read on to learn more about the stages of slow tooth decay.

1. The Beginning of Demineralization

During the first stage, bacteria begin to eat away at the enamel of the teeth. The enamel is a hard tissue made of various other minerals, but when plaque acids come into contact with it, the minerals begin to fade.

As the enamel wears away, you may notice a white spot on the teeth. It signals that your teeth are losing minerals, a primary sign of tooth decay.

2. Decay of the Enamel

If you skip routine checkups, you allow your tooth decay to progress. It will deteriorate your enamel even further and potentially turn the white spot into a brownish color over time.

Small holes in the teeth can form as the enamel around your teeth begins to deteriorate. These are referred to as cavities. Cavities cannot heal on their own, and you will need to see a dentist to fill your cavities and protect your teeth.

3. Decay of the Dentin

Dentin is the tissue of the tooth that lies beneath the enamel. This material is softer than enamel and more susceptible to damage plaque acid causes. When the acid reaches the dentin, tooth decay accelerates.

You will most likely experience more pain because of this part’s connection to your tooth's nerves. When the bacteria reach this level, your tooth will become extremely sensitive.

4. Experiencing Pulp Damage

Damage to the pulp is the next stage of tooth decay. Your pulp will cling to the nerves and blood vessels that supply nutrients to the tooth for it to remain healthy.

When tooth decay becomes severe enough to damage the pulp, the affected area undergoes irritation and swelling. Because the tissues surrounding the tooth can not expand to accommodate the discomfort, pressure will occur on the nerves, resulting in pain.

5. Abscess in the Tooth

As the decay progresses into the pulp, the bacteria will have more room to move around and infiltrate that area. It results in tooth infection. The increased inflammation in the tooth may also lead to pus formation near the bottom of the tooth, called an abscess.

Abscesses cause much pain, typically radiating down into your jaw. You may experience troubling symptoms, such as swelling in the face, gums, and jaw or fever. Swollen lymph nodes around the neck as your body attempts to heal can also occur.

Consult with a dental professional as soon as you see abscesses forming in your mouth. Without proper treatment, the infection will eventually spread to the jaw bones and other parts of the head and neck.


Knowing the stages of tooth decay will help you properly care for your teeth and allow a dentist to determine the best type of treatment based on your symptoms. In addition, this will let you clearly explain to your dentist what stage your tooth decay may be in.

If you are looking for a local dentist in Ann Arbor, turn to Dental House MI. We take a holistic approach to your dental health and provide the full spectrum of care. Get affordable dental care today!

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Ann Arbor Dentist Office
Hours : Mon to Thur 9am - 6pm, Fri & Sat 9am - 3pm
Address : 4860 Washtenaw Ave D, Ann Arbor, MI 48108
Waterford Dentist Office
Hours : Mon to Fri 9am - 6pm, Sat 9am - 3pm
Address : 5979 Highland Rd, Waterford Twp, MI 48327
West Bloomfield Dentist Office
Hours : Monday, Wednesday to Friday 9am - 6pm
Address : 6595 Orchard Lake Rd, West Bloomfield, MI 48322
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