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How long does it take for a tooth to decay?

how long does it take for a tooth to decay

How long does tooth decay take to reach pulp? Tooth decay stages depend upon many factors.

What is the rate of decay? Tooth decay stages vary for everyone.

-Tooth decay stages: How long does it take for a tooth to decay? If the environment is right, it can happen more quickly than you’d think.

The time it takes for a cavity to initiate and reach various stages of tooth decay is highly variable. Some variables are the pulp‘s distance, area decayed, pulp response, the hardness of tooth structure, diet, oral hygiene, and frequency of acid attack.

The distance from the tooth’s surface to the pulp chamber varies. Children have much larger pulp chambers than adults. Decay on root structure on the backside of a second molar, for example, has a minimal distance to the root canals. Having no enamel covering the root, decay penetrates the dentin quickly. The cementum, typically covering the root structure, is so soft and thin it offers no protection from root decay. Although technically notched reaching the pulp chamber, root decay reaching a root canal has the same effect as a pulp exposure.

Areas decayed on the crown structure differ in caries expansion. Those areas in grooves, pits, and fissures are impossible to clean. Between the teeth, decay takes about six months to breach the enamel into the dentin. These areas are flossable, and flossing can prevent expanding the cavity allowing the area to recalcify. Decay along the gum line next to the cheek and lips, if left unbrushed, moves rapidly.

As decay approaches the pulp chamber, the pulp responds. The pulp chamber lays down more dentin to protect itself. Highly active decay lesions can bypass this response and reach the pulp tissues. Slow-growing decay lesions stimulate the pulp and will take longer to expose the pulp.

The hardness of tooth structure affects the rate of decay. During tooth development, fluoride enlarges the crystal lattice, making the enamel and dentin less soluble in the acid that causes decay. This reduces the spread of decay. Those teeth with just topical fluoride treatments have a harder outside enamel surface to resist decay; once through that layer, decay speed increases. Those with no fluoride have the most significant speed of penetration.

Diet and oral hygiene affect the progression of decay. Clean teeth with a low carbohydrate and low sugar diet are less susceptible to dental caries’ start and growth. With a lack of oral hygiene and a diet high in carbohydrates and sugars, the decay rate is maximized.

The frequency of acid attacks increases the rate of growth of decay. People who regularly eat sweets, sip on carbonated beverages, or sugar-containing carbonated drinks continuously bathe the teeth in acid. Even with excellent oral hygiene, these teeth will decay.

The greater the number of factors involved in the progression of decay, the greater the progression rate.

Thank you for reading.

Image of a tooth under a microscope where there multiple tooth decay stages occurring.

The tooth looks like millions of bacteria cover it, and people that don’t brush and floss have teeth covered by bacteria at all times.

Image of cavity statistics stating that 78% of Americans have at least one cavity by the age of 17. Routine dental visits can catch tooth decay stages when occurring early on.

CAQs about cavities 

What are the common signs of tooth decay?

One classic sign of tooth decay that can be easily seen clinically is discoloration of the tooth (brown, gray, black). Persistent bad breath, even with flossing, brushing, and using a mouthwash, is also another sign that there could be tooth decay. As decay progresses to the inner layers of a tooth, decay can even start to cause pain. Sensitivity to hot and cold are also common symptoms during certain tooth decay stages. 

Do cavities hurt? What is a cavity? 

There are multiple different kinds of bacteria in our mouth at all times. Flossing, brushing, rinsing, and visiting the dentist regularly will help disrupt the harmful bacteria, which will help stop cavities from forming. Also, eating healthy and staying active can prevent cavities from happening.  

A cavity forms when bacteria enter a tooth and cause permanent damage. Cavities can be small and can be treated with a tooth-colored filling. Larger fillings, however, that reach the inner layers of a tooth may need to be treated with a root canal and a crown, and sometimes, they may even need to be extracted. At that point, more permanent replacement options need to be discussed. 

When a cavity reaches the inner layer of a tooth, it can be excruciating. Sensitivity to hot and cold are common during certain tooth decay stages.  

If I have a cavity that hurts, does that mean that I need a root canal?

Once a cavity progresses to the inner layers and becomes too large to replace with the standard tooth-colored filling, it’s likely the time has come to assess the need for a root canal and a crown. Generally, a cavity will not start hurting until it has reached the inner layer of a tooth. This area is also called the nerve

Are teeth made out of bones? 

While teeth and bones might appear to be the same material at first glance, they’re quite different. Bones can repair and heal themselves, while teeth cannot. Teeth are more fragile in that respect, which is why it’s so important to practice good dental hygiene and see a dentist regularly. If you are hesitant about going to the dentist or aren’t sure of a reputable dentist in town, just search for “affordable dentist near me” or a “dentist near me open.” Your search should yield a list of qualified dentists in your area. Also, it’s important to take Vitamin D to make the teeth stronger while they are developing.

Is vitamin D necessary for the health of my teeth? 

Children that are born to women who received high doses of vitamin D during their pregnancy had a 50% lower risk of defects in their permanent dentition than the children of mothers who only received a standard dose, according to a report in JAMA Pediatrics. Findings from the study, “Association of High-Dose Vitamin D Supplementation During Pregnancy With the Risk of Enamel Defects in Offspring,” imply that prenatal vitamin D supplementation may serve as a preventive intervention for enamel defects.

What nutrient helps reduce tooth decay?

The answer is calcium. Calcium is one of the most essential minerals for healthy teeth because it strengthens your enamel. If vitamin D is low, dental health will be affected.

How can I keep my teeth stronger and less prone to cavities? 

5 Ways to Keep Your Teeth Stronger 

  1. Eat calcium-rich foods.
  2. Drink water instead of soda or juice.
  3. Take Vitamin D if you are low.
  4. Take a Probiotic if needed.
  5. Floss and brush twice daily.

Learn more
5 ways to keep your teeth strong and white

Can cavities be reversed naturally?

Only at the beginning stages, while still in the enamel, can cavities be reversed. Once they reach the dentin layer, cavities can not be reversed. 

You can reverse small or incipient cavities naturally by doing the following steps: 

  1. Brush twice daily with fluoride toothpaste.
  2. Clean between your teeth every day. You can use floss or an interdental cleaner.
  3. Eat nutritious, well-balanced meals, and limit snacking.

Learn More:
Tooth Decay – American Dental Association – MouthHealthy

What about supplements to make my teeth/bones stronger? 

Get 1000 to 1200 milligrams (mg) of calcium every day. This can be from calcium-rich foods and taking a supplement only if needed. Also, be sure to get 600 to 800 IU of vitamin D.

Learn more:
Keeping Your Bones and Teeth Strong For Life

Overall Health and General Dental problems: A mineral deficiency can affect oral health in many ways. If patients are deficient in any of the following minerals, problems can be present.

Can Parathyroid hormone affect dental health and lead to more cavities? 

This hormone is responsible for two main minerals for dental health: Calcium and Vitamin D. Parathyroid hormone stimulates the production of active vitamin D in the kidneys. Intestine – parathyroid hormone indirectly increases calcium absorption from food in the intestine via its effects on vitamin D metabolism. 

Vitamin D and Dental Health: Low levels of Vitamin D can contribute to osteoporosis and periodontal disease. To sum it up, Calcium and Vitamin D are critical for bones and teeth’ general health and strength.

What other minerals are important for dental health and preventing cavities? 

Magnesium helps prevent inflammation of the gums and infections, such as gum disease. 

Vitamin A-> riboflavin Vitamin A is a crucial nutrient in keeping your gums healthy and building tooth enamel. Deficiency in this area can cause burning mouth syndrome, which is a painful condition in which one experiences a sensation of burning or scalding in the mouth. 

Zinc deficiency can cause a loss of sensation in the tongue, loss of taste, dry mouth, and gum disease susceptibility.

Phosphorus and Dental Health: Phosphorus plays a critical role in dental health because it naturally protects and rebuilds tooth enamel.

Vitamin C→ Bleeding gums, lowered immune response, infections in the mouth (such as a yeast infection), and impaired taste indicate a lack of vitamin C.

Can Vitamin B Deficiency lead to dental problems? 

B2–>Shiny red lips and a sore tongue are signs that you need more vitamin B2.

B3–>Red and/or swollen tip of the tongue with dry, smooth edges and general mouth pain are indicators that you need more vitamin B3.

B12–>Bad breath, a bright red tongue that may have fissures, a loss of taste, dry mouth, numbness, and bleeding are all signs that you need more vitamin B12.

Learn More:
Assessment of Vitamin B12 and Its Correlation to Dental Caries and Gingival Diseases in 10- to 14-year-old Children: A Cross-sectional Study

Can tooth enamel be restored?

Once tooth enamel has been damaged, it cannot be restored. However, enamel that has been weakened can be restored to some degree by improving its mineral content.

Learn More:
Can tooth enamel be restored

What should I eat to make my teeth strong?

Foods containing calcium — such as almonds, cheese, and leafy greens — also foods high in phosphorus — such as eggs, meat, and fish — can help keep tooth enamel healthy and strong according to the ADA (American Dental Association). 

Learn more at:
8 foods for heath teeth

Treatment Complications 

Related Conditions 

Why do some people floss and brush and still have active dental disease? 

Gut health and oral health are connected. Even those with mechanical removal of bacterial colonies with daily brushing/flossing patients will still exhibit signs of dental diseases for some patients. This could include things like recurrent decay, gingivitis, or Periodontitis. Understanding the importance of microbiome as a whole and mouth and GI colonies, the latest research indicates that it is all related. This explains why some patients have frustrations regarding regular flossing and brushing, yet they are still experiencing dental problems. 

Learn More:
Role of the Microbiota in Immunity and inflammation 

Learn More:
The role of gut microbiota in immune homeostasis and autoimmunity

Can patients with auto-immune conditions get cavities more easily? 

The immune system might play a role in tooth decay and the rate of filling failure. In a release on Medical Xpress, the University of Toronto stated new research suggests the body’s immune system may contribute to “tooth decay and filling failure.” The release stated, “The study shows that the decay of dentin” and “fillings is caused not just by bacteria alone,” but also “through the unique activity of oral immune cells called neutrophils, which potentially enhance the effects of bacteria.” The findings were published in Acta Biomaterialia.

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