Are Cavities Reversible?
Caries, also known as tooth decay or cavities, are a common disease that affects millions of people worldwide.
Even when it has become one of the most frequent conditions, there is still a lot of misinformation and doubts regarding its evolution and treatment.
It is common knowledge that a tooth with a cavity needs to be treated with a filling or a root canal. However, dental cavities are more complex than that, and there are other options depending on the stage. In Bridgewater Family Dental, we are prepared to give you all the information needed for you to achieve the best oral care possible.
In this article, we'll talk about cavities and discuss if the damage caused by them is reversible or not.
What are cavities?
Cavities are a frequent disease that can affect any tooth. It can be developed regardless of the tooth position in the mouth and the person's age.
This condition damages both the enamel and dentin, causing its progressive destruction.
Cavities are traditionally identified as holes in the tooth surface or a small black dot on the crevices. However, the size of the hole increases as the disease progresses, turning a small hole into a large cavity when left untreated.
It is essential to understand that cavities don't cause any pain or discomfort until the lesion is close to the nerve inside the tooth. However, the visible size of a cavity usually doesn't reflect the actual extension of the lesion. This is because cavities progress in a pyramidal pattern, with the base towards the tooth center. Therefore, what might seem like a small hole in the surface is usually extensive on the inside.
How are cavities formed?
Cavities are formed after constant bacteria attacks.
Your mouth is covered with millions of bacteria. Each one of them has a specific function and relationship with other microorganisms. However, although most of them are necessary for your body, as they help with the digestion process, some can be harmful and responsible for cavities and other conditions.
In fact, sugar and other food residues in the mouth are metabolized by these harmful bacteria. An acid byproduct is released during this process which is, in reality, the chief cause of caries.
The constant contact of the tooth with the acid causes a process where the enamel losses minerals and weakens. A pit, known as a cavity, is formed once the hard tissues in the tooth have been affected for a prolonged time.
Is the damage permanent?
Contrary to common beliefs, cavities are reversible to a certain degree. While it is true that enamel is not capable of growing back, the damage can be reversed if it is still in its initial stage.
When a caries is developed, it begins as a small lesion that looks like a small white spot on the enamel. At this stage, the enamel is affected and damaged, but a hole is not formed yet.
Nevertheless, during this initial phase, the caries is entirely reversible and can be stopped from progressing. The dentist can use fluoride to compensate for the missing minerals on the lesion. This allows the enamel to restore its strength and prevents the disease from progressing into a hole.
However, caries is only reversible during this early stage. Once the integrity of the enamel has been compromised, the only solution left is a filling.
How to reverse it?
Good oral hygiene and topical fluoride applications are the only way to reverse caries in their initial stage.
Reducing the amount of sugar and nutrients for harmful bacteria reduces the acids they produce. Therefore, the damage they induce decreases, allowing the enamel to remineralize.
Furthermore, fluoride is the best option to remineralize the tooth. It makes the enamel strong, allowing it to recover while also turning it strong enough to withstand the acid.
It is essential to understand that this stage of caries can usually be only identified by the dentist. This is due to its lack of symptoms and its apparent similarity to healthy enamel. Thereby, it is vital to make regular dentist appointments to make sure there are no issues with your teeth and reverse any caries while it is still possible.
If you want to protect your teeth, book an appointment at Bridgewater Family Dental today. Our professional team will take proper care of your oral health and prevent caries from evolving and causing irreversible damage.