If the human body fights disease and cures itself, will my teeth cavities also be cured automatically? That is, perhaps, the question most frequently asked by patients from their dentists. The answer is both “yes, and no”. To understand this double-talk, you need to understand how and why cavities develop, and how our system fights them.
Why do teeth Cavities Form?
Our teeth have a layered structure. The outermost and the pleasant looking layer is the enamel which covers the entire visible part of the tooth including the chewing and biting surfaces. Underneath the hard enamel, is the dentin layer which covers not only the visible part of the tooth but also the root within the gum, and is not as hard as the enamel. The structure of enamel is majorly composed of minerals called apatites, which are also abundant in the saliva. As the saliva keeps wetting the teeth in a healthy person, a two-way chemical process goes on all the time. Minerals from the enamel move into the saliva (demineralization of enamel), and an equal amount keeps entering the enamel from the saliva (remineralization). The process is balanced under normal conditions and the enamel remains intact. Two things affect the balance.
- Demineralization– Saliva is normally basic (alkaline). If tiny food particles or paste remain sticking to the teeth after food, bacteria always present in the mouth start converting it to acid. The presence of acid in spots upsets the mineralization balance. More minerals leave the enamel around those spots than enter the enamel. If one does not maintain good oral hygiene, the bacteria get a walk over, and erode the enamel in those spots. Cavities start forming.
- Remineralization– Fluorides help reduce demineralization and promote remineralization of your enamel. That is why your dentist may occasionally recommend a fluoride treatment or fluoride rich food. Of course, better oral hygiene will not allow the bacteria much time to act, and the demineralization process will be overcome by the remineralization from the saliva.
Cavities Will go Away in the Initial Stages
When remineralization is supported, and demineralization inhibited by the combined effect of good oral hygiene and use of fluorides, cavities in their initial stages, can go away. This process of re-mineralization occurs by taking up minerals from the saliva and replenishing the appetite crystals that were lost because of excessive demineralization. Teeth can also be re-mineralized at the dental office by using topic fluoride application.
Not All Teeth Cavities can Go Away
Cavities go away only during the early stages of cavity formation, that is if the enamel layer has not been damaged badly damaged by the cavity. However, cavities that have extended beyond the enamel and penetrate the dentine, are permanent. This is because the underlying dentine and pulp layers are very soft, and they provide little resistance to the advancing bacterial infection. In such cases, the teeth are restored by removing the carious portion and replacing it with a suitable filling material.
The Role of Fluoride Application in Remineralization of Teeth
Naturally, the mineral content in our teeth is composed of Calcium apatite crystals. These minerals not only make the enamel hard, but they are also responsible for preventing teeth sensitivity. Fluoride containing food supplements and professional remedies have shown be effective in preventing teeth cavities. When a fluoride varnish or gel is applied onto the teeth, calcium in the apatite crystals is replaced with fluoride, and the resulting fluorapatite is much stronger and is more resistant against demineralization. This is why topical fluoride application is routinely performed by dentists during dental checkups, especially in case of patients who are prone to formation of teeth cavities.
The Take-home Message
By now, we know that cavities may go away in the early stages only, provided optimal conditions are reinstated. These include good oral hygiene care, and ensuring intake of appropriate levels of fluoride in the form of food supplements. Also, this does not mean one should not be worried about preventing cavity formation at all. Teeth cavities can be prevented by a double-action formula.
- Personal care– Always observe good oral hygiene in the form of regular brushing and flossing. Also, make sure you eat a balanced tooth-friendly diet. Take special care of fluoride content in drinking water in localities where people are known to develop cavities.
- Regular dental inspections– You can only inspect your teeth indirectly. Hence, it is not possible to clean properly and even inspect certain parts of your mouth. Dental plaque can set in and permit bacteria time to play. It is, therefore, important to have your teeth inspected by a qualified dentist, almost every six months.
Preventing teeth cavities is very simple! All you need to do is to brush and floss your teeth regularly. So, what would you prefer? Having no cavities at all, or having to spend money on teeth fillings? The choice is yours!