At What Stage Can You Reverse A Cavity?
Your teeth are strong enough to protect themselves efficiently from damage. However, they can still get damaged. Cavities are common dental problems, affecting millions of adults and children. Cavities refer to tiny holes or openings in a tooth.
Fortunately, you can prevent cavities through excellent oral hygiene and routine dental checkups. Routine dental checkups also allow early detection and treatment of cavities. Even better, you can reverse cavities when caught early. Visit our dentist near you for routine dental exams and cleanings in Shalimar, FL.
In this article, we’ll discuss how cavities form, the stages of cavities, and how to prevent a cavity.
How does a cavity develop?
Your tooth comprises three main parts – enamel, dentin, and pulp. The enamel is the hardest and outermost layer of the tooth. Your teeth’ enamel is the most resilient substance produced by your body. It contains minerals such as calcium phosphate. It makes it vulnerable to erosion, mainly from acids from bacteria and food. The tooth enamel can chip, crack, or break when exposed to extreme forces.
When the enamel is compromised, harmful oral bacteria can get into the tooth, infecting the dentin to the pulp. The infection or decay eats up the tooth’s structure permanently, leaving behind holes or openings called cavities.
Stages of cavities
Five stages of decay contribute to the formation of cavities, including:
- Demineralization: High exposure to acids from oral bacteria and foods causes loss of these minerals, significantly weakening the tooth’s enamel. Fortunately, the minerals can be restored by demineralization. The process entails depositing calcium, fluoride, or phosphate minerals into the demineralized enamel.
- Enamel decay: If the enamel isn’t remineralized, it continues to break down, creating white spots on the tooth. The spots can turn darker with time into tiny holes or openings called cavities. The dentist can fill the tooth to prevent further damage.
- Dentin decay: If enamel decay isn’t stopped, the softer second layer of the tooth (dentin) is exposed. You’ll likely experience sensitivity at this stage, especially to cold, hot, and sugary items. Since the enamel is softer, decay proceeds faster at this stage. The dentist can use a dental filling to replace the damaged part of the tooth.
- Pulp decay: If you don’t address the dentin decay quickly, the infection enters the tooth’s innermost layer, called the pulp. It contains the tooth’s nerves, blood vessels, and other connective tissues that help keep the tooth healthy and alive. The decay irritates and infects the pulp, causing inflammation and pain.
The dentist can perform root canal therapy to remove the decay and prevent further damage. A root canal typically kills the tooth but still maintains its structure. Further restorations like fillings or dental crowns may be necessary to strengthen the tooth and protect it from further infections and fractures.
- Abscesses: The infection can spread beneath the pulp to the roots if left untreated. The infection forms a painful pocket or pus at the bottom of the tooth. A tooth abscess is often accompanied by fever, face or jaw fever, facial or gum swelling, and swollen lymph nodes in the neck. If not removed, the infection could spread to the jaw, head, neck, and other body parts, resulting in serious complications.
When can you reverse a cavity?
As we’ve already seen, you can only reverse a cavity if caught at the first stages of enamel demineralization. At this stage, enamel remineralization and excellent oral hygiene are essential. Enamel remineralization helps restore the lost minerals, strengthen the enamel and make it more resistant to damage. Regular brushing and flossing help prevent bacterial plaque and tartar that produces acids that weaken the enamel.
Once the cavity has passed to the second stage (enamel decay), you can’t reverse the cavity. However, the dentist can treat it to prevent further damage and save your tooth. Common treatments for repairing cavities include:
- Dental fillings
- Inlays and Onlays
- Dental crowns
- Root canal therapy
- Tooth extraction. If the infection has eaten up a significant part of the tooth, the only remedy may be to extract the tooth.
How to prevent cavities
While it’s possible to reverse a cavity, it’s best to prevent one from forming in the first place. Effective tips to prevent cavities include:
- Brush thoroughly at least twice daily.
- Use fluoride toothpaste and take fluoridated water.
- Have regular fluoride treatments.
- Floss once daily.
- Limit exposure to overly acidic, sugary, and starchy foods.
- Schedule routine dental exams and cleanings near you.
Schedule an appointment today
Do you have a cavity? Contact Complete Health Dentistry of the Emerald Coast for treatment.