Tooth decay happens when the outer protective layer of your teeth, called tooth enamel, is weakened and eventually broken down by plaque and bacteria . Once the tooth enamel has been compromised, a cavity, which is literally a hole in the tooth, can form.
Without treatment, tooth decay can progress to the point that your tooth’s root is affected, leading to the need for root canal therapy or an extraction. But can you reverse tooth decay once it’s actually started?
Early Stages of Tooth Decay May Be Able to Be Reversed
There are different stages of tooth decay. The first stage, in which the enamel is weakened, can cause an unusually white spot on your tooth that may or may not be noticeable—this is where enamel has worn away. Once tooth decay progresses, a dark spot or an actual hole can form .
In the beginning stages of tooth decay—when there’s a white spot or even a dark stain but not yet a hole—it may be possible for your dentist to reverse your tooth decay. At these stages, the tooth enamel has lost minerals in a process known as demineralization, which may be able to be reversed with fluoride .
Your Diet Helps Support Strong Tooth Enamel
Because the early stages of tooth decay include enamel demineralization, eating nutrient-rich foods can help support your smile and may be able to help reverse cavities in the process of forming. This includes avoiding added sugar as much as possible and focusing on vegetables, fruits, foods with calcium, and vitamin K, which has been shown to support strong teeth and bones .
Also, drinking plenty of water can help flush bacteria and food particles away and keep you hydrated, which means you have plenty of saliva to help nourish your teeth and minimize the chances of bacteria and acids weakening your tooth enamel.
Chewing Sugarless Gum May Help
While gum that contains sugar can contribute to tooth decay, sugarless gum—specifically kinds that contain xylitol—may help reverse early cavities. Not only does sugarless gum increase saliva flow and prevent dry mouth, but it can encourage the production of saliva that contains more minerals, which can help remineralize tooth enamel .
Try chewing sugarless gum with xylitol for about 20 minutes after eating to protect your pearly whites and potentially even reverse early tooth decay!
Work With Your Dentist to Address Tooth Decay
While the idea of reversing cavities is certainly appealing, it’s important to understand that not all cavities can be reversed. Once your cavity has progressed to an actual hole in your tooth, you’ll likely need a filling to treat your tooth decay. Your dentist can help you determine if your tooth decay can be reversed!