Cavities are one of the most common dental concerns for both children and adults. According to the American Dental Association, more than 91% of people will have more than 20 cavities in their lifetime. With so much unwanted dental decay, you’d think we’d be more cautious with our teeth and seek regular dental care. Still, most people don’t realize they have a cavity until their dental experts from Biltmore Commons Dental Care point it out. Untreated cavities can have some serious health risks, so we want to help you spot one the moment it forms. Here are the five stages of a cavity.

The 5 Stages of a Cavity

1. Noticeable White Spots

The first stage of any cavity begins as noticeable little white spots on the tooth. Most people can see these with the naked, untrained eye. A quick peek around your teeth during brushing will show you where cavities are forming. These white spots are growing underneath the enamel’s surface and can lead to serious demineralization. Thankfully, you can stop a cavity in its tracks during this stage by simply using a fluoride toothpaste or mouthwash that rehardens the minerals in your enamel. Still, you’ll want to talk to your dentist if you see white spots on your teeth that concern you. 

2. Decay of Enamel

Unfortunately, the decay of a tooth begins below the tooth’s surface, allowing bacteria to thrive and eat away at the underside of the enamel. In stage two of a cavity, you may not notice anything is wrong until tiny black holes appear on your teeth. These cavities are generally most noticeable in molars, especially in children or adults with deep molar grooves. The deeper the grooves, the more likely you are to experience cavities. Thankfully, your dentist can clean your teeth and repair the hole before the infection spreads.

3. Getting Down Deep

In the third stage of a cavity, the decay can reach deep down into the dentin. This happens because the bacteria has successfully eaten through your enamel, hitting the soft tissue layer below. If you are at this stage, your dentist will refer to it as an advanced cavity, but it can still be fixed. At this point, your dentist will strongly encourage a filling and thorough cleaning to keep the infection from reaching the pulp of your tooth. Stage 3 can’t be reversed, but catching it early enough could prevent the need for a root canal.


4. We’ve Reached the Pulp

In Stage 4 of a cavity, the decay and bacteria have reached the tooth’s pulp, affecting the nerves and causing extreme pain and sensitivity. Young children should never have to reach this stage, but it’s not uncommon for adults to wait until they feel pain to see their dentist. Unfortunately, during this phase of decay, the only option to remove the infection is to perform a root canal. In some extreme cases, your dentist may not be able to save the tooth and will need to extract the entire thing.

5. Abscess

During the final stage of a cavity, the infection has reached all the way through the tooth and to the tip or the root. In many cases, at this stage, the bacteria has made it all the way through the tip of a root and into the surrounding bone and jaw tissue. This is what we call an abscess and is something that can cause severe pain and swelling. If you experience this on one or both sides of your jaw, you should call your dentist right away! Letting a cavity get this bad not only requires a full removal of your tooth, but can also lead to other health issues.

Stop a Cavity in Its Tracks

When it comes to your dental health, the team at Biltmore Commons Dental Care can take care of it all. Cavities are nothing to sleep on and require immediate attention to prevent further decay and damage. Whether you’re looking for regular dental care, Invisalign orthodontics, or restorative dentistry, we’ve got you covered. We proudly serve patients throughout Phoenix, AZ, and are ready to take your call. Schedule your appointment online or call us at (602) 249-2227.