Can cavities go away?
Untreated cavities cannot heal themselves without intervention. Bacteria inside the tooth actively break down the protective enamel, which cannot be regenerated without treatment. Once decay penetrates the enamel and reaches the dentin, a softer and more cavity prone layer beneath it, the spread of decay can occur rapidly. Dentin is not as densely packed as enamel, making it more vulnerable to cavities.
Brushing your teeth regularly can help to remove biofilm that is contributing to enamel demineralization. Incorporating a fluoride toothpaste or gel into the daily routine can work to remineralize weakened areas and halt further decay. It is likely that scarring will be visible in the form of white spots on your tooth, although no cavity has currently formed.
Cavities cannot go away on their own; however, good oral hygiene is essential to preventing the initial stages of decay. Once a cavity has penetrated your enamel and caused physical reshaping of the tooth, a visit to a dentist is necessary as it is impossible for teeth to re-grow in that space from a physical and scientific standpoint.
What Is A Cavity?
Tooth decay, also known as “caries” or a cavity, is a bacterial infection inside of the tooth. If left unchecked it can spread to other areas of the mouth and continue to expand affecting the same tooth as well as adjacent teeth that connect to it.
When daily brushing and flossing are not practiced, plaque biofilm accumulates on the teeth and contributes to the demineralization of tooth enamel. As acidity increases due to the presence of this biofilm, enamel is slowly eaten away, leading to the formation of cavities.
What Are Risk Factors of Cavities?
If you are a fan of sweet treats, it is essential to brush your teeth regularly in order to prevent the development of cavities. When sugary foods are consumed, bacteria in the mouth transforms the sugar into acid which can lead to plaque buildup. This plaque can erode the enamel, raising the likelihood of tooth decay.
Additional risk factors may include:
- Poor oral hygiene
- Lack of enough fluoride
- Dry mouth
- Eating foods that cling to teeth, such as candy
- Acid reflux disease
- Bedtime infant feeding
There are various factors that can drastically increase the likelihood of developing a cavity. Fortunately, if you have already been affected by one, there are various treatment options available.
How does a cavity develop?
Tooth decay and the formation of cavities can occur when acids produced by oral bacteria come into contact with the teeth.
Prolonged exposure to acidic byproducts can lead to a weakening of the mineral structure of your teeth over time.
Tooth decay can be broken down into five distinct stages, all of which contribute to the formation of a cavity:
- Demineralization: The initial phase of dental caries begins when the enamel is exposed to acids caused by the interaction of bacteria with sugars and starches.
- Enamel decay: The second phase of deterioration occurs when the enamel continues to erode. During this phase, cavities can form in the teeth.
- Dentin decay: In the third stage of tooth decay, the decay has progressed to the dentin layer – the soft tissue underneath the enamel. At this point, the cavity is likely to be painful.
- Pulp decay: Once the cavity has penetrated to the pulp, which contains the nerves and blood vessels in your tooth, the degree of inflammation increases significantly as this marks the final stage of decay.
- Abscesses: A tooth abscess can develop when the bacteria inside a cavity spreads beneath the pulp and creates a pocket of pus. Although these abscesses can sometimes go unnoticed, they are generally very painful.
It is difficult to provide an exact timeline for the onset of cavities, as the rate at which tooth decay develops can vary depending on a number of factors.
Proper oral hygiene is essential in preventing cavities from forming quickly, as it has the greatest impact on their development.
Why Do We Get Cavities?
For optimal cavity formation, bacteria that naturally occur in the mouth must adhere to the outer layer of the tooth and break down sugars from food items. Bacteria will produce a colorless waste called plaque, which serves the purpose of protecting and facilitating the growth of the bacteria. Brushing and flossing interrupt this mechanism of plaque formation.
In addition, the minerals in our saliva can combine with plaque to create a solidified substance known as tartar. This tartar must be carefully removed by a dental professional; however, it can weaken the tooth by dissolving the calcium in the meantime. Demineralization is a process which erodes the outer layer of our teeth, composed of calcium rods. This erosion creates small crevices within the teeth, allowing bacteria to enter and potentially cause tooth decay.
It is important to prioritize regular dental check-ups as they can detect cavities and other dental conditions before they cause more serious issues. Seeking care at an early stage of tooth decay increases the chances of reversing or preventing further damage. If treated before it has had an opportunity to cause discomfort, a cavity may not require extensive treatment.
The treatment of cavities varies depending on severity and individual circumstances. Possible treatments may include:
- Fluoride treatments: If you have recently developed a cavity, a professional fluoride treatment may help restore your tooth’s enamel and could potentially reverse the cavity in its early stages. These treatments contain more fluoride as compared to those found in tap water, toothpaste, and mouth rinses. Fluoride treatments may come in the form of liquid, gel, foam, or varnish. These can be applied directly onto the teeth with a brush, or administered using a small tray that fits over the teeth.
- Fillings: When tooth decay has progressed beyond the earliest stage, fillings (also referred to as dental restorations) are a common treatment choice. These fillings come in a variety of materials, including composite resins that match the color of the tooth, porcelain, and dental amalgams.
- Crowns: If you have extensive decay or weakened teeth, a crown may be the ideal solution. A crown is a custom-fitted covering that takes place of your tooth’s natural crown. Your dentist will drill away all the decayed areas and enough of the rest of your tooth to ensure an optimal fit. Crowns are available in a variety of materials, such as gold, high strength porcelain, resin, porcelain fused to metal, and more.
- Root canals: If decay penetrates the internal content of your tooth (pulp), you may require a root canal to preserve the significantly damaged or infected tooth instead of an extraction. This treatment consists of the removal of the diseased tooth pulp. Medication may be administered into the root canal to reduce any potential infection, followed by a filling being placed to restore the area.
- Tooth extractions: If a tooth has become so badly decayed that it cannot be restored, it may need to be removed. Without the tooth in place, there is a chance that other teeth may move out of their natural position. To avoid this and maintain good dental health, it is important to consider having a bridge or a dental implant installed to replace the missing tooth.