Have you ever been awakened out of a sound sleep by throbbing tooth pain? Have you ever been dining in your favorite restaurant when, after a drink of refreshing ice water, you feel an excruciating, stabbing pain in your teeth making it impossible to enjoy your dinner? If you’ve had similar experiences, you’re not alone. 

That stabbing or throbbing pain is caused by tooth decay, and a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that 91% of Americans over 20 years old have had a cavity at some point in their lives. 

According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), dental caries (tooth decay) is “the most prevalent chronic disease in both children and adults, even though it is largely preventable.” 

Preventing cavities is easy enough; with regular trips  the dentist can spot the earliest signs of tooth decay and treat the tooth, or even reverse the decay, before it becomes a painful problem.  Don’t delay, click here to book an appointment. 

Dentist Working on Patient

The Progression of Tooth Decay

The reason tooth decay is such an insidious disease is that, in its initial stages, it gives little indication at first, that it’s there. 

Tooth decay progresses in stages  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_oIlv59bTL4, and it’s often seen as a five-stage process. 

-Stage 1 – White Spots

While we normally think of cavities as being dark, they start as white spots, which appear on the

tooth’s surface due to the loss of calcium and the build-up of plaque. 

-Stage 2 – Enamel Decay

If the demineralization in stage one is ignored, the enamel starts breaking beneath the tooth’s 

surface, which could cause the surface of the tooth to break. 

-Stage 3 – Dentin Decay

If the enamel decay in stage two is ignored, the bacteria will dissolve the enamel and reach the dentin—the part of the tooth that’s located between the enamel and the pulp. 

-Stage 4 – Involvement of the Pulp

 If infection reaches the pulp, a discharge forms which can kill 

blood vessels and nerves in the tooth. 

-Stage 5 – Abscess Formation

The final stage—and the most painful—is abscess formation. 

Ignoring stage five will make it necessary to extract the tooth. 

Seniors’ Special Circumstances

Older adults often have a different set of circumstances which can cause cavities:

-Wear and Tear

As strong as teeth are, a lifetime of use can wear down a tooth’s outer layer, making it easier for 

cavity-causing bacteria to start eating away at what enamel may be left and reaching the dentin.

-Dry Mouth

Many medications can cause dry mouth, a prime cause for tooth decay. Saliva helps wash away 

food and reduces plaque. It’s estimated that 30 percent of all tooth decay in older adults is 

caused by dry mouth. 

-Receding Gums

A natural part of the aging process, receding gums can expose a tooth’s root. The root is not 

protected by enamel and, when exposed, is prone to decay. Exposure of the root can also 

increase sensitivity to temperature.  

-Old Fillings

Dental fillings last a long time, but not forever. Fillings can chip or crack, and spaces can open up 

between the filling and the tooth, all of which is a perfect environment for bacteria to start 

eating away at the tooth’s internal structure. 

Waiting Can Get Expensive

Taking care of a cavity in stage one or two is pain free for you and for your bank account. Wait until stage four and things can get painfully expensive. You could pay much more for a root canal and crown than you would for a filling. A little prevention can save a lot of money.  

Preventing Tooth Decay

The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends the following tips to help reduce the chances of getting a cavity:

  • Brush twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste.
  • Clean between your teeth daily with floss. 
  • Eat nutritious and balanced meals and limit snacking. Limit sugary foods and beverages. 
  • Check with your dentist about the use of supplemental fluoride, which strengthens your teeth, and about the use of dental sealants, a plastic protective coating applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth where decay often starts.
  • Visit your dentist regularly for professional cleanings and oral examinations.

Not surprisingly, that last tip is probably the most important because only a dental professional, like Dr. Brei, can take preemptive action when the first signs of possible decay appear. 

Getting in touch with the office of Dr. Brei couldn’t be easier. You can email them at appointments@drbrei.com, call them at 520-325-9000, or click here to book an appointment directly. Ensure your teeth remain cavity free and call Dr. Brei today.