Incipient versus Treatable Decay

What is the difference between Incipient and Treatable decay? Let’s start with understanding what tooth decay is. Tooth decay is the permanent damage to teeth caused by the acid from bacteria that live in our mouths. Incipient decay is beginning decay or the early stages of the decay process, and in many instances does not require conventional treatment. White spots on the surface of teeth can be a sign of incipient decay (please keep in mind, there are other reasons for white spots). As the decay continues to progress, the spots can change to a darker color and decay can move deeper into the tooth structure. Treatable decay is when the decay process has affected enough of the tooth that a dentist needs to remove the decay and restore the tooth. If left untreated, a hole can become visible and can cause discomfort.

As a conservative dentist, Dr. Culp prefers to monitor and keep incipient cavities clean in hopes to stop the decay process and avoid treatment. Brushing twice a day and flossing are the best ways to keep the affected area clean. Once the decay has penetrated past the enamel into the dentin, Dr. Culp will recommend treating the area. The dentin layer of a tooth is not as strong as the enamel so decay can progress much quicker, which means early treatment is best to avoid pain.

Whether incipient or treatable, decay is something to be taken seriously. Keep in mind, it is permanent damage to the tooth. Once the process has started, it can not be reversed. The best thing to do is to avoid the decay from starting by brushing twice a day, flossing nightly, and regularly visiting your dentist. If it’s been a while since your last dental exam, be sure to schedule your next visit soon!

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