Self-healing teeth would make everyone’s lives easier and eliminate the need for most dental procedures. As appealing as the concept may be, though, dental technology isn’t yet that advanced. When you have dental issues such as cavities, they need to be repaired manually, so you may need a trip to your local dentist.
Can a cavity go away by itself? The concise answer is no. Cavities don’t form on their own; they need the help of bacteria that will start the decay process. Neither will they go away on their own; you’ll need the help of your local dentist. You may also need to improve your oral hygiene practices in order to prevent cavities from forming in the future.
How Are Cavities Formed?
Any time you drink or eat anything, a sticky and bacteria-laden substance called plaque forms on your teeth. If plaque isn’t removed through regular brushing and flossing, then it settles in the cracks and crevices between your teeth and gums, and cavities and decay begin to form. Ideally, you should use an antibacterial mouthwash after you brush and floss, but if this isn’t feasible, rinse your mouth thoroughly with clear water.
Brushing and flossing isn’t enough, however. You also need to ensure that you use the proper equipment and give your teeth more than just a once-over with your toothbrush. The following tips from the American Dental Association can help make your oral hygiene more effective:
- Brush your teeth at least two times each day for at least two minutes each time.
- Use a soft bristled brush that’s the appropriate size and shape for your mouth.
- Replace your toothbrush every two to three months. If you’ve been sick, then replace it when you’ve recovered.
- Use an ADA-approved toothpaste and mouthwash.
- Hold your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to your teeth.
- Use a gentle pressure and short strokes.
- Brush the outside, the tops, and the insides of your teeth.
Click here for a video on the best way to brush your teeth.
It’s important to keep your equipment in good condition and clean. Rinse your toothbrush well after each use; store the brush upright so that it can air dry, and it should be separate from other toothbrushes to prohibit sharing germs and bacteria. Storing your toothbrush in a closed container can encourage the formation and growth of mold, bacteria, and yeast, so don’t do that.
What Steps Can Be Taken To Stop A Cavity From Developing?
A daily regimen of good dental hygiene can inhibit the onset of decay and cavities, and it’s the best defense against them. However, eating a nutritious diet that’s full of fresh fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and dairy products can contribute significantly to healthy teeth and good oral hygiene. Fast foods may be convenient, but they’re full of sugars, carbohydrates, and empty calories, so they’re not healthy for your body or your teeth and gums.
For the best dental health, brush and floss often, especially if you frequently consume sugary or starchy foods. These types of foods generate acids that repeatedly attack your tooth enamel, and decay starts to form. If you notice a white spot on a tooth, it can be a precursor to tooth decay and may, at this point, be reversed by using fluoride and other minerals found in your saliva, according to the NIH, or National Institutes of Health.
However, if the tooth cavity isn’t treated, then it will continue to decay and will eventually require either a filling, a root canal with a tooth cap, or an extraction. Sources of fluoride include:
- The city water supply, since most municipalities now fluoridate their water
- Fluoridated toothpaste
- Mineral supplements
- Fluoridated mouth wash
Also, your dentist may offer fluoride treatments such as a topical gel or varnish. Particularly if you primarily drink bottled water, you may need topical fluoride treatments since bottled water doesn’t usually contain enough fluoride for your daily needs.
Adequate hydration can also help to deter cavities from forming as long as you drink ample amounts of clear water rather than sugar-laden soft drinks. When you drink an adequate amount of water, it helps flush bacteria from your gums, tongue, and teeth so they can’t encourage the growth of cavities and decay. Although it may seem counterintuitive, a dry mouth can encourage the growth of bacteria and the formation of cavities because the bacteria aren’t flushed out of your mouth.
It’s important to brush before bedtime and drink nothing but clear water after you brush. This prevents acid and bacteria from remaining on your teeth overnight and discourages decay from forming.
What Can You Do Once A Cavity Starts Forming?
If you notice that you have the early signs of tooth decay, your best option is to make an appointment with your personal dentist. Sometimes, you can be in the beginning stage of a cavity and be unaware of it, but there are usually signs that you’re in the process of developing a cavity, such as:
- Discoloration in the gums
- Loosened teeth
- Persistent bad breath
- Sensitivity in one or more teeth
- Pain anytime you chew or bite down or whenever you consume cold, hot, or sweet substances
- Sudden pain or toothache
- Holes or pitting in your teeth
- Stains on the surface of a tooth
The presence of any or some or all of these signs and symptoms can be precursors to tooth decay and you should consult your dentist without delay. If you have regularly scheduled dental checkups, annually at a minimum, then your dentist can notice decay and cavities while they’re still treatable.
During a dental checkup, your dentist or hygienist will:
- Check for tooth decay
- Remove plaque buildup
- Provide instruction on the best way to brush
- Provide tips that are specific to your unique dental needs
- Apply a topical fluoride treatment if necessary
- Schedule your next visit
Many parents don’t see the need to treat cavities in primary teeth, but this is incorrect. Primary teeth should receive the same good dental hygiene and treatments as permanent teeth. This also helps to instill a lifetime of good dental hygiene habits in the child.
To maintain the best dental health in your child, consider the following practices:
- Monitor not only how often they eat but what they eat as well.
- Limit snacking between meals, but if your child snacks, be sure they brush and floss afterward.
- Try to discourage junk food consumption, save those types of foods for special occasions.
- Make sure your child doesn’t eat or drink anything but plain water after they’ve brushed their teeth before they go to bed.
Can You Stop A Cavity From Getting Worse?
With care and dedication, you may be able to prevent your cavity from worsening, but ultimately, you may need to seek professional dental treatment. To prevent your cavity from worsening, try the following:
- Brush assiduously after you drink or eat anything except plain water, paying particular attention to the cavity and the area around it.
- Maintain good hydration so that additional bacteria don’t accumulate in your mouth.
- Talk to your dentist about a topical fluoride treatment.
- Rinse with saltwater. Saltwater is an astringent and an antiseptic, so it can help cleanse the cavity and destroy some of the bacteria.
- Avoid sugary foods and beverages and acidic foods
- If you indulge a craving for sweet food, rinse your mouth immediately afterward
The Final Word On Cavities
Cavities aren’t a fact of life. When you use good daily dental hygiene habits, they needn’t develop at all. Instructing your child in good dental hygiene procedures when they’re young will provide lifetime benefits. It’s one of the best lessons you can teach them.
Semi-annual cleanings and checkups will ensure the best dental health for you and your child, but at a minimum, you should have an annual checkup and cleaning. Often, your dentist can detect problems when they’re minor, which can save you considerable time and expense in the future. Proper care and maintenance can ensure that your teeth last you a lifetime without the expense and inconvenience of getting artificial teeth.