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When is Tooth Decay Reversible?

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When is Tooth Decay Reversible?

Neglecting your flossing routine is what can cause cavities

Did you know tooth decay is reversible? And tooth decay doesn’t necessarily mean you have cavities? If you were under the impression tooth decay is always synonymous with a cavity, you’re not alone. 

However, the early stages of tooth decay can be reversible and don’t have to turn into cavities. This is why it’s important to prevent tooth decay at our Ballantyne dental practice before it’s too late. Regular dental exams, teeth cleanings, and X-rays can prevent you from having to get a filling or more extensive treatment. 

Our practice’s dentists, Dr. Aten and Dr. Garofalo, explain when tooth decay is reversible below. They’ll also go over how to stop decay from occurring and tips on how to reverse it. Read on to discover their insights.

Early Tooth Decay vs. Cavities

The difference between early tooth decay and cavities is that a cavity is essentially a hole in your tooth. Once a cavity is there, the decay has already damaged your tooth. A cavity is not reversible and requires treatment from your dentist.

Early tooth decay, on the other hand, is when demineralization of the tooth occurs. There isn’t a full-fledged cavity yet. However, the enamel is starting to weaken. Here are some of the telltale signs to look for.

What Are the Early Stages of Tooth Decay?

The early stages of tooth decay may not always be visible. Nonetheless, if you notice white spots on your teeth, this is a sign the enamel has lost minerals. When you see white spots, it’s a sign to take action. Your teeth’s enamel can use saliva and fluoride to repair itself at this stage.

But if the demineralization process progresses, more enamel could weaken or wear away. Your tooth’s enamel is what protects it from temperatures that could produce pain. Enamel is also responsible for protecting your teeth while you’re chewing and eating.

As your enamel begins to weaken, you may notice signs like increased sensitivity to hot and cold foods. You could also experience some pain when chewing on crunchy or hard foods. Enamel erosion, which represents the early stages of tooth decay, is typically caused by acidic foods, sugar, and teeth grinding. Other causes include your DNA, acid reflux, and alcohol consumption. 

How to Stop Tooth Decay

Learning how to prevent tooth decay starts with good oral hygiene habits and nutrition. While you can’t change your genetics, you can learn how to stop tooth decay from spreading. Our dentists in Ballantyne recommend coming in for bi-annual dental exams and teeth cleanings. If you stick to this schedule, you’ll be helping your dentist stay on top of any changes in your teeth.

Most important though is how you care for your teeth at home. Brushing at least twice daily and flossing once daily is the bare minimum. You can add a fluoride mouthwash to your routine to strengthen your teeth and help reverse tooth decay. You can also brush your teeth after each snack or meal, including lunch. 

Remember, saliva and fluoride are your teeth’s best friends. Trapped food particles, drinks full of sugar, and starchy diets aren’t. The longer sugary, acidic, and starchy foods come into contact with your teeth, the higher your risk of enamel erosion. Even drinking water, especially tap water with fluoride, during a meal can help. 

Tips on How to Reverse Decaying Teeth 

Tooth decay prevention in Ballantyne is something our dentists are passionate about teaching. The more they can help patients prevent pain and aesthetic concerns from tooth decay, the better. Prevention is also less expensive and makes patients feel more confident about their smiles.

Yet, tooth decay isn’t always 100% avoidable. Here are our tips on how to reverse decaying teeth in the early stages.

  • If you can’t brush after a meal or snack, chew on a stick of sugar-free gum. As you chew, you’ll activate your mouth’s saliva glands. Saliva helps reverse demineralization by strengthening your enamel.  
  • Brush your teeth every day with fluoride toothpaste, at least twice a day.
  • Eat more whole foods and limit your sugar intake. This includes not consuming a lot of fruit juices, which may also be acidic. Think orange juice and lemonade. 
  • Consider using a mouthwash with fluoride a few times a week. 
  • Eat cheese after consuming acidic foods. 
  • Rinse your mouth with tap water after eating if you can’t brush or chew sugar-free gum.

What Causes Cavities?

Cavities form because tooth decay advances to the point that your teeth sustain permanent damage. Exposure to bacteria and acids is what gets the ball rolling in the first place. But it’s repeated exposure that can eventually lead to cavities. 

Demineralization is when your teeth lose minerals from exposure to bacteria and acids. If demineralization isn’t reversed through fluoride and saliva, tooth decay will progress to the second stage. This is when your enamel starts to break down, leaving your teeth vulnerable. Cavities can form once the enamel wears away. Reversing tooth decay isn’t possible at these stages.  

Not practicing good oral hygiene habits at home means your teeth don’t have a chance to reverse the demineralization process. Letting conditions like dry mouth, acid reflux, and bruxism go untreated also increases the risk of cavities. Our Ballantyne dentists can help spot cavities before tooth decay damages your teeth’s dentin and pulp. Once a cavity progresses to these stages, it can be quite painful and more complicated to treat. 

Depending on the stage of tooth decay and the size of the cavity, treatment options include fillings, inlays, and crowns. More extreme cases may call for a root canal or an extraction followed by a dental implant.    

Tooth Decay Prevention in Ballantyne Near Charlotte, NC

Using fluoride toothpaste is one way to stop tooth decay from spreading. Learn more tips from our Ballantyne dentists.

Learning how to stop tooth decay and when tooth decay is reversible can lead to fewer cavities. Our dentists would rather help our patients in Ballantyne prevent tooth decay than deliver the bad news that they’ve got a cavity to fill. Tooth decay is usually preventable in its early stages and if you stay on top of your oral hygiene routine.

Beyond regular brushing and flossing, avoiding diets high in starches, sugars, and acidic foods is your next best bet. But even the strictest of diets and home care can’t do what our skilled dentists can. Be sure to schedule your dental exams and cleanings so we can address tooth decay before it progresses. Contact us or request an appointment today.

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