If you notice that you have a cavity, you should make an appointment with your dentist. With a busy schedule, you may desire to put treatment off as long as possible. However, you need to make time when it comes to cavities. Waiting to get treatment can lead to serious side effects.
Some people wonder if cavities go away on their own. Understanding the role of your enamel and the progression of cavities can help you seek timely treatment.
The Tooth’s Anatomy
Your tooth has three basic layers: enamel, dentin, and pulp. The enamel is the protective outer layer of the tooth. You see this layer anytime you see your teeth. The enamel prevents bacteria and other harmful substances from entering your tooth. Once cavities penetrate the enamel, you can’t reverse them. Enamel doesn’t contain living cells or self-repair.
The middle layer of the tooth is the dentin. This layer contains small tubules that connect the enamel to the pulp. These tubules carry information to the pulp. For example, sensations of temperature, pressure, and pain travel through the dentin. Cavities that reach the dentin require professional treatment to remove the decay.
Finally, the pulp is the innermost part of the tooth. It contains the blood vessels, nerves, and connective tissues that keep the tooth alive. If a cavity reaches the pulp, it can also cause serious infection.
Typically, cavities are the result of a reaction between oral bacteria and sugars from the food we eat. When you eat, the bacteria consume the sugar and produce acid. This acid will attack and weaken the enamel. As a result, this can lead to cavities and decay.
One of the most common ways to develop cavities is through poor oral hygiene. If you don’t brush and floss your teeth regularly, the bacteria will remain in your mouth. Plaque is a type of sticky bacteria that will cling to your teeth. It will continue to build on the surfaces of your teeth—even under your gum line. Over time, this bacteria will also damage your enamel and gums, causing infection and decay.
If you notice spots of discoloration on your teeth, it could be an early sign of a cavity. Spots that look white, brown, or black could be the first signs of decay. Cavities are often painless when they first form. However, they will cause sensitivity and pain as they progress.
The Myth of Self-Healing
Unfortunately, cavities do not heal on their own. This means that you need to seek professional treatment to prevent further damage. When cavities ruin the enamel, you can’t reverse the damage. So, it is vital to call your dentist when you notice symptoms of a cavity. Early detection is key to avoiding major pain and dental costs.
There is a process called “remineralization” that some people may think of as “healing cavities.” Your enamel is made of minerals like calcium or magnesium. When acid attacks the enamel, it removes some of these vital minerals. This is called “demineralization.” Your enamel can undergo “remineralization,” which is where minerals are deposited back into the enamel.
In some cases, early cavities may undergo this process. This can also occur through saliva or fluoride from toothpaste or treatments.