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3.2 Stages in Caries Lesion Severity and Activity

If a caries lesion is not treated, demineralization can progress through various stages. Each stage indicates a different level of severity in the demineralization process. The process results in a cavitated lesion.2 Determining the stage of lesion severity and whether a lesion is active or arrested can help oral health professionals decide whether the tooth is a good candidate for dental sealant placement. (For more information on active vs. arrested lesions, see "Active vs. Arrested Lesions.")

Fluoride is effective in slowing or arresting the caries process by contributing to the remineralization of demineralized tooth structure. Because some fluoride modalities are widely accessible on a daily basis (e.g., via fluoridated community water or fluoridated toothpaste), it can take years for lesions to progress from one stage to the next, and many lesions can arrest (e.g., not progress to cavitation) or regress (e.g., remineralize).

Caries lesions can be classified into two categories: non-cavitated and cavitated.