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Tooth Decay: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention

tooth decay
Tooth Decay: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention 

It is important to remember not to dismiss the possibility of developing cavities in your teeth as a remote possibility. Cavities can develop without you even noticing them, and once they do, they can put your life on hold with excruciating toothache until they are treated.

What Exactly Is Tooth Decay, and What Are Its Root Causes?

Plaque is formed from the remnants of food that are still in your mouth after you have finished eating. Acid is produced in your mouth when the bacteria that cause plaque digest the sugars and carbohydrates that are found there. This acid is powerful enough to dissolve and erode the enamel (outer layer) that covers a tooth, which is the condition that is referred to as dental decay (a cavity).

The Different Stages, Symptoms, and Treatments of Tooth Decay

When decay begins to develop in a tooth, it begins on a very small scale. If the issue is not properly diagnosed or is ignored, the cavity will continue to grow and will eventually penetrate deeper into the tooth.

Because tooth decay progresses through stages, there are a variety of symptoms that can be seen, felt, and even tasted at various points in the process.

The appropriate treatment for your cavity will be determined by the extent of the decay as well as the location of the problem.

Stage 1: Enamel Deterioration

When it is in its early stages, a cavity has not yet broken through the enamel of the tooth (outer layer of the tooth).

During this time, the symptoms are not as severe. It's possible that you won't even notice any of them at all. Sometimes you'll notice a dark spot on your tooth, and other times you might feel a slight sensitivity in that area.

Our dentist in Summerlin will remove the affected area of enamel and then fill the void with a tooth-colored filling material. Fillings are a quick solution that is also very affordable and can last for many years.

Stage 2: Dentin

As soon as the decay penetrates the enamel surface, it reaches the dentin layer, which has a soft consistency and is extremely susceptible to decay. Once this layer has been reached, the decay can no longer be stopped. This indicates that the cavity has the potential to rapidly spread once it reaches the dentin.

At this stage, the tooth sensitivity that you have been experiencing should become more apparent. You might experience pain when exposed to cold temperatures, when brushing your teeth, or when eating sweet foods.

If the decay has spread throughout the majority of your tooth, our dentist in Summerlin may suggest getting a crown rather than a filling. This is the case when the decay is more extensive. A crown is a sturdy cap that can be fitted over a tooth in order to protect it from suffering any further deterioration. Because there are more steps involved in this treatment, it does take significantly more time to finish. Additionally, the price is somewhat higher than that of a straightforward filling. Crowns are an investment, but they can last a very long time if they are properly made and maintained, so the money you spend on them is well worth it.

Stage 3: Pulp Chamber

The pulp chamber is reached when the decay has progressed far enough to penetrate the dentin layer. This portion of the tooth houses the nerves, blood vessels, and connective tissue that are found in the tooth. Your tooth will become infected once the cavity has made its way into the pulp of the tooth.

You should prepare yourself for a good deal of discomfort throughout this stage. It's possible that, in addition to the cold temperatures, the heat will start to bother you. You might also find that you have to take pain medication to alleviate a persistent pain that you are experiencing. This might happen.

We are going to take an x-ray of your tooth so that we can be certain that the cavity has spread to the pulp chamber. Root canal therapy is going to be required in order to save and repair your tooth. During this procedure, the nerve tissue will be removed, the canals will be sterilized, and then the canals will be sealed off to prevent bacteria from entering again. In addition to having the treatment done on the nerves of the tooth, it is likely that you will need to have a crown fitted for you. The vulnerable tooth will be protected from further damage as a result of this action.

Stage 4: Abscess

tooth decay

The roots of your teeth are firmly rooted in your jawbone, so when you look in your mouth, you won't be able to see that portion of your tooth known as the root. Nerve canals are passageways that extend beyond the pulp chamber and run down the length of each root. If your cavity has progressed far enough to reach the nerves of the root, you may start to experience severe tooth pain as well as swelling in the face. If you have an abscess, you will notice that you have what looks like a small pimple on your gums. This is known as a fistula.

An abscess in the mouth or teeth is a serious condition. It's possible that over-the-counter pain medications won't provide you with any relief. Because of the toothache, you might find that you can't sleep at night or that you wake up a lot during the night. There is a possibility that the gum tissue surrounding the affected tooth will swell, and this swelling may spread to the rest of your face. You might also be running a fever.

When a severe infection has set in as a result of a cavity, it is possible that the tooth cannot be saved by having a root canal performed on it. It is possible that an extraction will be required. We will need to take an x-ray of your tooth in order to determine its current state and whether or not it can be saved. If it turns out that we do need to extract it, then getting a dental implant as a replacement tooth might be the best option for you.

Avoiding Dental Caries

Maintaining perfect oral hygiene is the most effective method for warding off cavities. Working together with your dentist in Summerlin for routine cleanings and examinations is the best way to ensure that any issues, should they arise, will be addressed without delay.

If you haven't been to the dentist in a while or if you have any reason to believe that you might have a cavity, it's time to make an appointment with Dr. Cohan. Make an appointment by calling in today.



Dr. Marianne Cohan was voted The Best Dentist/ Dental Office and Best Cosmetic Dentist from The Las Vegas Review-Journal in 2020 and 2021. She received her Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) from the State University of New York at Buffalo in 1992.

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With an emphasis on cosmetic dentistry, complete makeovers, and implant dentistry, Dr. Cohan is committed to continuing education and feels that we never stop learning.  Dr. Cohan takes pride in using high-powered magnification to perform minimally invasive restorative dentistry. She uses all the latest technological advances including digital radiography, digital photography, computer simulations, and high-resolution pictures of your proposed treatment on 55-inch screens.  She also utilizes CBCT (cone beam) and laser technology.

Dr. Cohan is always available to her patients and is available for any dental emergency.


851 S Rampart Blvd #230, Las Vegas, NV 89145 | (702) 341-9160
851 S Rampart Blvd #230, Las Vegas, NV 89145 | (702) 341-9160