Cavities, alternatively referred to as dental caries, are caused by untreated tooth decay. Over time, tooth decay can create holes in your teeth, sometimes all the way to the root.
Fortunately, with the proper approach to oral hygiene, early cavities can be avoided — and even healed on their own.
Mindarie-Quinns Dental will discuss how cavities form, how to prevent them, and how to reverse the early stages of tooth decay in this article.
How is a cavity formed?
Cavities form when your teeth are exposed to acids produced by oral bacteria.
Over time, repeated exposure to these acidic byproducts causes the minerals in your teeth to deteriorate.
There is no definitive time frame for the development of a cavity. Tooth decay is influenced by a number of different factors.
However, poor oral hygiene has the greatest impact on the speed with which a cavity develops.
Is it possible to reverse a cavity?
Cavities are usually reversible if detected at the onset or early stages of the demineralisation process, which is the first stage of tooth decay.
Good oral hygiene is critical during this stage to remineralize your teeth and prevent decay. This includes regular brushing and flossing, as well as frequent exposure to fluoride, a mineral that helps strengthen your teeth’s enamel.
Unfortunately, even with improved oral hygiene, cavities cannot always be prevented. In these instances, the treatment for the cavity is determined by the depth of the tooth decay.
Cavity treatment options include the following:
Fillings. For smaller cavities, a resin or composite filling is used.
Inlays or onlays. Inlays and onlays are used to fill cavities that are too large for standard fillings.
Crowns. When a cavity affects a larger portion of your tooth, a metal or porcelain crown may be necessary.
Root canals. A root canal procedure involves the insertion of filling material into the inner portion of your tooth, referred to as the pulp. When the pulp is damaged or infected, root canals are used.
Extractions. A tooth extraction is performed when the decay on the tooth is no longer treatable.
How can you avoid developing a cavity in the first place?
While it is possible to reverse the early stages of tooth decay, maintaining good oral hygiene is still the best way to avoid developing a cavity.
The following are some of the most critical steps to practising proper oral hygiene:
- Brush your teeth twice daily, at a minimum, with fluoride toothpaste. This will aid in preventing plaque buildup and repairing any early damage to the enamel.
- Floss your teeth at least once a day to prevent plaque buildup between the teeth. Flossing is most effective at night before bed to avoid bacteria feeding overnight.
- Increase your fluoride exposure by drinking fluoridated water and using fluoridated products. In some cases, you can even request fluoride treatments or prescription fluoride for home use from your dentist.
- Limit your exposure to foods that are excessively sweet or starchy. These foods are the most likely to cause tooth decay. When you do indulge in these sugary foods, be sure to brush your teeth thoroughly afterwards.
- Visit the dentist for a cleaning at least once every six months, or more frequently if your dentist recommends it.
If you do have a cavity that requires filling, do not put off treatment. Filling a cavity as soon as possible — even if it is a small one — can help prevent further tooth decay down the road.