Do Cavities Go Away on Their Own? Facts & Myths

Do Cavities Go Away on Their Own? Facts & Myths
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Do Cavities Go Away on Their Own? Facts & MythsClinical Content Reviewed by Dr. Jay Khorsandi, DDS
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Table of Contents

  1. Will Cavities Just Go Away
  2. What Is Tooth Decay
  3. Waiting Out a Cavity
  4. Dental and At-Home Treatment
  5. Good Oral Hygiene Reduces Risks
  6. References

Cavities can hurt, lead to bad breath, and increase your risk of worsening tooth decay and gum disease, but waiting them out is not an option. They do not go away on their own.

Get help from a dental professional, and take steps to reduce your risk of cavities. You might even be able to reverse some types of tooth decay.

Will My Cavities Just Go Away?

Cavities, or dental caries, are a common dental health problem, especially in adults. Even if you have a good dental hygiene routine, you may develop a cavity or be at risk of tooth decay that leads to a cavity. Often, dentists recommend several options for managing dental caries, including adjusting your diet and ensuring you get enough fluoride, either by drinking tap water or using a special toothpaste.

Even if you make these changes and still struggle with cavities or tooth decay, there are other options for reducing your risk of dental caries and even reversing some tooth decay that might lead to cavities. However, once a cavity forms, only a dentist can treat it.

What Is Tooth Decay? How Does It Cause Cavities?

Tooth decay can wear down enamel and eventually form cavities. Your mouth contains naturally occurring bacteria that can help in the digestion process. They start breaking down sugars and starches as you chew, a process that continues through the rest of the digestive process. These bacteria feed on both simple and complex sugars.

Our modern diets contain more carbohydrates than early human civilizations, so we are prone to more cavities, even with a good oral hygiene routine and regular dentist visits. The bacteria in our mouths have more sugars to feed on, so they have more opportunities to digest these sugars and release acid, which wears down your tooth enamel.

Early tooth decay does not have any symptoms, but as enamel wears away and exposes the inner parts of your tooth, you may develop sensitivity to hot or cold food, or to foods that are overly sweet, such as candy and fruit. You may also notice that your gums begin to recede if decay is closer to the root. This exposes your teeth to more plaque and decay.

Later stages of tooth decay include cavities, or dental caries. At a regular dental exam, your dentist may notice darker spots on your tooth, which indicate tooth decay below the surface. Once a hole forms in your tooth, you will need a filling. However, you may be able to reverse tooth decay at an earlier stage.

Is It Possible to Wait Out a Cavity or Reverse It?

Once a cavity forms, there is no way to heal it on your own or manage it with home remedies. While you can slow the process of tooth decay or the formation of cavities, once the hole appears in your enamel, it is likely to get bigger, as bacteria have more opportunities to encourage tooth decay inside the tooth. You must get treatment from a dentist, who will need to clean the hole and fill it.

Home Remedies for Pre-cavities

It is possible with “pre-cavities” to reverse tooth decay and stop dental caries from forming. This requires exceptional dental hygiene including fluoridated toothpaste, dietary changes, and a sealant. If you are someone more at risk of cavities and have taken all the steps you can on your own, ask your dentist about where sealants might be beneficial. Your dentist may also use a sealant if you have sensitivity or receding gums, to prevent tooth decay from becoming a cavity.

To diagnose potential areas of tooth decay, your dentist will:

  • Ask you about your current experiences like sensitivity and your dental history (or will refer to your existing dental records).
  • Check your teeth using a pointed tool and a small mirror.
  • Take x-rays to find potential decay they cannot see.

Dental Treatment for Cavities & Home Treatment for Pre-Cavities

Once a cavity becomes serious enough, a dentist will give you a filling. This involves removing decaying tissue from in and around the tooth, and then using a filling material. Common filling materials include:

  • Silver-colored fillings, called amalgam, which is less common in modern dentistry.
  • Composite fillings, which are tooth-colored and increasingly common because resins are improving.
  • Crowns for teeth that are badly decayed and need to be rebuilt.

We’ve outlined some recommendations for keeping your mouth healthy at home.

Use Fluoride

Adding fluoride to local water supplies has been a common practice since 1945.). Concerns over the potential health impacts of drinking fluoridated water have led some municipal water supplies to stop this practice and prompted some individuals to avoid drinking tap water. However, fluoride is an important way to reduce your risk of developing dental caries.

If you do not drink fluoridated water, here are some other options:

  • Brush with a toothpaste that has added fluoride.
  • Use a fluoridated mouth rinse.

Fluoride re-mineralizes teeth, strengthening the enamel to reduce the potential for tooth decay to damage the surface of your teeth. A study from 2014 found that fluoridated toothpaste significantly hardens enamel and reduces the risk of tooth decay.

Practice Good Oral Hygiene
Brush and floss your teeth at least twice per day, and add a mouth rinse to your routine. Consider rinsing your mouth with water when you eat or drink something sugary, especially sodas or candy. Visit your dentist regularly for cleanings too.
Adjust Your Diet
Focus on whole grains, vegetables, whole fruits, and protein rather than processed foods or lots of carbohydrates or sugar. Try to avoid snacking between meals or eating right before bed, as this limits the amount of food particles bacteria will consume.
Avoid Tobacco
Smoking and chewing tobacco can thin the enamel of your teeth and change the acid content in your mouth, which increases your risk of dental caries.
There are no home treatments to reverse a cavity once the hole appears, but you can take steps to reduce your risk of cavities and even reverse some tooth decay before a cavity opens.
If you are concerned about using fluoride-heavy products or drinking too much fluoridated water, you may try these home remedies, which have shown some benefits for tooth enamel:
Oil-Pulling
Involves swishing a tablespoon of coconut or sesame oil around the mouth for a few minutes. A 2009 study reported that pulled sesame oil reduced plaque and bacteria in the mouth to the same degree as mouthwash.4 However, the study focused on early gum disease and not cavities.
Aloe Vera Gel
When added to your dental hygiene routine, may help to re-mineralize your teeth. It seems to reduce the amount of harmful bacteria that can cause tooth decay, according to a 2015 study.
Vitamin D
Supplements may re-mineralize and strengthen teeth per a 2013 review.

Good Oral Hygiene Reduces Your Risk of Cavities

Ultimately, once a cavity forms, there is no way to reverse it, get rid of it, or wait for it to go away on its own. It is likely to get worse, as more tooth decay sets in. You will need to see your dentist to have the cavity filled or pursue other treatments if tooth decay has spread.

However, if you have a “pre-cavity” or are at higher risk of tooth decay, taking the steps recommended above can help you avoid a cavity and even reverse some early stages of tooth decay. You may also ask your dentist about long-term oral health treatments that can decrease your risk of developing tooth decay.

References

Cavities. Mouth Healthy, from the American Dental Association (ADA). Date fetched: May 12, 2021.

Every Wondered How to Get Rid of Cavities? (July 2018). Women’s Health. Date fetched: May 12, 2021.

Tooth Decay. (October 2020). Cigna. Date fetched: May 12, 2021.

Fluoridated Water.). (May 2017). Cancer.gov. Date fetched: May 12, 2021.

Brushing Your Teeth. Mouth Healthy, from the American Dental Association (ADA). Date fetched: May 12, 2021.

Natural Ways to Remove Cavities at Home. (March 2018). Medical News Today. Date fetched: May 12, 2021.

Tooth Decay. (April 2019). National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR). Date fetched: May 12, 2021.

Dental Fillings. (July 2018). National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR). Date fetched: May 12, 2021.

High-Fluoride Toothpaste: A Multicenter Randomized Controlled Trial in Adults. (August 2014). Wiley Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology.

Effect of Oil Pulling on Plaque Induced Gingivitis: A Randomized, Controlled, Triple-Blind Study. (October 2008). Indian Journal of Dental Research.

Benefits of Aloe Vera in Dentistry. (April 2015). Journal of Pharmacy & BioAllied Sciences.

Vitamin D and Dental Caries in Controlled Clinical Trials: Systemic Review and Meta-Analysis. (2013). Database of Abstracts of Reviews of Effects (DARE): Quality-Assessed Reviews.

Disclaimer: This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to serve as dental or other professional health advice and is not intended to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any condition or symptom. You should consult a dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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