The stages in the development of tooth decay

Dossier : Tooth decay: how does it develop? How can it be prevented?

Tooth decay

Tooth decay is a disease capable of destroying tooth enamel, the hardest substance in the human body. It gradually attacks every part of the tooth and can have very serious consequences on health. 



Many bacteria are naturally present throughout the entire human body. Most of them are harmless and even essential to the proper functioning of the body, notably the mouth. 

Inside the mouth, bacteria, saliva and food residues come together on the teeth's surface to form plaque. If plaque is not regularly removed it can attack the enamel on the surface of the teeth. Without treatment, tooth decay can proceed to attack the tissues deeper within the tooth.


Stage 1: The first stage in the development of tooth decay is painless. No symptoms are easily noticeable. Tooth decay affects the enamel, the hard substance that covers the tooth. Without a check-up carried out by a dentist, it can go unnoticed. 

Listerine Tooth Layers

Stage 2: Tooth decay then attacks the dentine (or ivory), the substance that forms the major part of the tooth. At this stage the tooth decay becomes painful. 

treating tooth decay

Stage 3: Tooth decay does not stop at destroying the dentine. It can continue to reach the tooth pulp where the tooth's blood vessels and nerves are located. This infection causes very painful toothache.

Stage 4: If nothing is done, the tooth decay can then go on to affect the tissue surrounding the tooth: ligaments, bone and gum. A dental abscess, far more painful than toothache, develops and can cause the tooth to fall out. 

→ Practical advice 

At the beginning of the development of tooth decay, chalky white stains form: these are the first symptoms of tooth decay. These stains are not easy to spot. The most effective method remains an X-ray at the dentists. If a tooth becomes more sensitive than usual or if you feel any pain whatsoever, visit your dentist without delay.

Ref: J&J internal data

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