Nobody wants to get a cavity, but they are more common than you might think. Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that more than half of children aged six to eight have had a cavity in their baby teeth. In adolescents, 57% have had at least one cavity in their adult teeth.
Even if they are not painful, cavities still require treatment if they are detected. This is because untreated cavities are still part of the tooth decay process and can lead to toothaches or even infections that can be very harmful to your health.
Many patients with cavities ask if they can go away on their own or be reversed in any way. Answering this question requires understanding the process of tooth decay and how it leads to cavities in the first place.
Understanding Tooth Decay
Tooth decay starts with the bacteria that lives in your mouth. Some of these bacteria are “good bacteria” that help you start to break down your food as it enters your body. Other bacteria are more harmful and live off the sugars and food particles that cling to your teeth. These bacteria produce acid as a byproduct.
This acid is actually responsible for breaking down the enamel and eventually creating holes in your teeth — cavities — that can go all the way down to the roots.
Can cavities go away on their own?
A cavity can go away on its own, but only if it is caught in the earliest stages of the tooth decay process. The beginning stage of a cavity is called demineralization, which is when the enamel begins to weaken due to exposure to bacterial acid. At this stage, good oral hygiene and certain preventive treatments such as dental sealants can help restore minerals in the enamel and prevent the cavity from going deeper.
Cavities that have reached through the enamel and into the dentin, which is the soft tissue beneath the enamel, and the pulp containing nerve roots and blood vessels, cannot go away. And they typically become painful without further treatment.
In more severe cases, a cavity can become infected and form a pocket of puss at the root of the tooth known as an abscess.
With baby teeth, it may be easy to say that a cavity can go away when the tooth falls out normally, but it is still important to prevent and treat cavities. This is because toothaches and tooth infections can still cause big problems, especially in a growing and developing mouth.
Preventing Tooth Decay
The best way to stop a cavity is to prevent it from forming in the first place. This is where good nutrition and good oral hygiene come in. Since harmful bacteria feed off the starches and sugars in our mouth and on the surface of teeth, nutrition and hygiene help deprive them of their food source.
Specifically, this means:
- Limiting processed sugars and acidic foods and beverages
- Avoiding eating or drinking before bed or naps, particularly bottles of milk or juice in toddlers and young children
- Brushing two or more times a day with fluoride toothpaste
- Flossing every day to remove food particles from between teeth
- Seeing a dentist for regular checkups and preventive measures such as fluoride treatment
Treating Cavities and Toothaches
If there is any sign of a cavity in your child’s teeth, such as pain or discoloration, you should schedule an appointment with a dentist as soon as possible. Prompt treatment helps prevent the cavity from worsening. After a thorough dental examination, your dentist can recommend the appropriate treatment.
Pediatric dental treatments for cavities include:
- Dental sealants to protect the enamel on the chewing surfaces and hard-to-reach areas
- Dental bonding to help restore a damaged tooth
- Fillings to treat cavities and prevent further decay
- Root canal to repair and save a severely decayed or infected tooth
- Tooth extraction of damaged baby teeth if there is extensive decay
Working closely with your dentist can help your child develop a positive attitude and good habits for oral care. By taking an active role in the prevention and treatment of your child’s cavities, you can improve their oral health and help them have happy and healthy smiles for years to come.
Keep Your Family’s Teeth Healthy with the Help of AC Pediatric Dentistry
Going to the dentist can be scary — we get it. But it should be fun! Whether it’s care for baby teeth, big kid teeth, oral surgery, or orthodontics, our team of specialized pediatric dentists make the experience memorable while teaching you how to encourage healthy habits and good hygiene for lifelong smiles. Call us today or request an appointment online. We can’t wait to meet you!