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A cavity that has formed a hole in your tooth won’t go away. Once a cavity wears through your tooth’s enamel, you must see a dentist.
It is possible to halt cavity formation, but only if it’s in the early stages of tooth decay. To do this, you’ll need to:4,6
To ensure you’re getting enough fluoride, you can:
Even with diligent home care, tooth decay might worsen. Call your dentist immediately if you notice a physical change in your tooth. Early tooth decay usually looks like white spots on your teeth. A cavity will show a hole in the enamel.
Understanding the tooth decay process and committing to good oral hygiene can help you stop cavity development.
A cavity forms when harmful mouth bacteria become acidic and wear down tooth enamel. Oral bacteria produce acids when they mix with carbohydrates from sugary foods and drinks. This is the earliest stage of tooth decay.
Tooth decay develops over time. The typical process looks like this:
Tooth decay starts when mouth bacteria produce acid. The acid attacks the tooth enamel, causing demineralization. You can avoid cavities by replenishing lost minerals at this stage. If the tooth decay process continues, a cavity forms.
The second stage of tooth decay occurs when enamel continues to break down. If a hole forms in your tooth, the cavity won’t heal without professional dental help.
Dentin is the soft tissue beneath the tooth enamel. The cavity will likely feel painful when tooth decay progresses into the dentin.
This major stage of decay happens when the infection reaches the nerves and blood vessels within your tooth (pulp). You’ll likely need a root canal at this point.
A dental abscess can occur if the bacteria get trapped inside the pulp. This type of infection can cause swelling, discharge, and a pimple-like bump on the gums near the affected tooth.
Without treatment, a cavity will grow as the bacteria infect more of the tooth. Eventually, this can lead to the following:
Depending on the severity of the tooth decay, your dentist will use one or more of the following treatments:
Dental fillings are the most common treatment for smaller cavities. Most fillings use composite resin material.
If the cavity is too large for a regular filling, your dentist may recommend an inlay or onlay. These are usually made from gold, composite, or ceramic material.
A larger cavity might require a dental crown. Crowns can be made with various materials, including metal, porcelain, and composite resin.
Root canal treatment may be necessary if tooth decay reaches the fourth stage and infects the pulp. You’ll need a crown restoration after the root canal procedure.
If a cavity is too severe for treatment, your dentist may recommend an extraction.
Even though early tooth decay is reversible, it’s best to prevent it. Good dental health practices can go a long way in preventing cavities.
Proper oral hygiene includes:
Healthy foods lead to a healthy smile. Cavities begin when naturally occurring bacteria in your mouth mix with food particles and become acidic.
A diet good for dental health includes:
Various supplements and natural techniques can sometimes improve oral health and prevent tooth decay. These include:
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