Tooth Decay Treatment, Symptoms, and Stages

Tooth Decay Treatment, Symptoms, and Stages

Tooth decay is a prevalent dental issue that can affect individuals of any age group. The condition arises due to a bacterial infection that gradually erodes the tooth structure. If not appropriately addressed, tooth decay can lead to tooth loss and other severe oral health complications.

Table of contents:

This article aims to cover the symptoms, stages, and potential treatments for tooth decay.

What Is Tooth Decay

Tooth decay, which is also called dental caries, is a bacterial infection that impacts the tough outer layer of the tooth known as enamel. The condition is brought about by the acid that bacteria produce while feeding on the sugars and carbohydrates in the mouth. This acid eventually erodes the enamel, forming a cavity or a hole in the tooth.

Tooth decay can develop in any tooth section, including the chewing surfaces, spaces between teeth, and near the gumline. As it is a progressive ailment that can worsen over time, early identification and treatment are critical.

Tooth Decay Symptoms

During the initial stages, tooth decay may not produce any symptoms. However, as it advances, you may experience the following signs:

Tooth Decay Symptoms
  1. Tooth Sensitivity
    One of the primary indications of tooth decay is sensitivity. You may encounter a sharp pain or uneasiness while consuming hot, cold, or sugary foods or beverages.
  2. Pain
    As the decay reaches the inner layer of the tooth called the dentin, you may experience persistent tooth pain.
  3. Visible Holes or Pits
    You may observe an opening or pit in the impacted tooth that is visible without the use of any special equipment.
  4. Discolouration
    The affected tooth may display brown, black, or grey discolouration.
  5. Bad Breath
    Tooth decay can cause unpleasant breath or an unpleasant taste in your mouth.

Tooth Decay Stages

Tooth decay advances through various stages, each with its unique symptoms and treatment options.

Initial Decay

During the initial stages, dental caries may not show any symptoms. The enamel starts to soften and weaken due to the acid produced by bacteria.

Enamel Decay

As the enamel continues to dissolve, a small hole or cavity may appear in the tooth. This stage may cause tooth sensitivity, but it may still not show any other symptoms.

Dentin Decay

Once the decay reaches the dentin layer, you may experience persistent tooth pain. At this stage, the cavity will continue to increase in size and depth.


If the decay penetrates the innermost layer of the tooth, known as the pulp, you may experience severe pain and sensitivity to temperature. At this point, root canal therapy or tooth extraction may be necessary.

Tooth Decay Treatment

Tooth Decay Treatment

The treatment of dental caries depends on the stage of the disease. In the early stages, the decay may be treated with a fluoride treatment or a filling. In more advanced cases, a root canal or tooth extraction may be necessary.

  • Fluoride Treatment
    During the initial stages of decay, a fluoride treatment may be recommended. This involves applying a fluoride gel or varnish to the affected tooth to help remineralise the enamel and prevent further decay.
  • Tooth Filling
    If the decay has advanced to the enamel or dentin layer, a filling may be required to restore the tooth. The decayed portion of the tooth is removed, and the remaining cavity is filled with a tooth-coloured material.
  • Root Canal
    If the decay reaches the pulp of the tooth, a root canal may be necessary to eliminate the infected tissue and save the tooth. The dentist will remove the pulp, clean out the root canal, and fill it with a material to prevent further infection.
  • Tooth Extraction
    In severe cases, such as when the decay is too advanced to be treated with a filling or root canal, the tooth may need to be extracted. This involves the complete removal of the tooth from the socket.
    The dentist may suggest a dental implant or bridge to replace the missing tooth. Prevention is the best approach to dental caries.
    The following are some suggestions to help prevent dental caries:
    • Brush your teeth two times a day with fluoride toothpaste.
    • Floss every day to remove plaque and food particles from between teeth.
    • Limit sugary and acidic foods and beverages.
    • Visit your dentist regularly for check-ups and cleanings.
    • Consider dental sealants, which can protect the chewing surfaces of the back teeth from decay.


Dental caries is a prevalent dental issue that can lead to severe pain and oral health complications if not treated promptly. Detecting and treating the disease in its early stages is crucial to prevent its advancement.

If you notice any signs of dental caries, such as tooth sensitivity or pain, discolouration, or visible holes, it is essential to schedule an appointment with your dentist immediately. By taking proper care of your teeth and visiting your dentist regularly, you can effectively prevent dental caries and maintain optimal oral health.

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Reviewed by

  • drg. Hanny Ardia, S.K.G.

    drg. Hanny Ardia, S.K.G., is a dedicated professional in the field of dentistry, with a strong educational background and a burgeoning career in the dental industry. She obtained her Bachelor's degree in Dentistry from Mahasaraswati Denpasar University in 2021 and continued her journey as a Cooperative Assistant (Co-ass) at the same institution until 2023

    Her commitment to her profession is evident through her experience as a General Dentist Intern from 2021 to 2023, where she honed her clinical skills. Currently, she serves as an International Dental Patient Consultant at Bali Dental Voyage, where she provides online consultations, showcasing her expertise in patient care and dental services on an international scale in 2023.

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