Did you know that 12% of the population has never had a cavity?! They’re the lucky ones! Unfortunately, the other 88% of us have experienced one. Thankfully, you can easily treat a cavity when you catch it early. The big question we hear often is, ‘Once you get them, can cavities be reversed?’ Here are the signs a cavity is about to occur, what can be done when it does, and how your Lakewood dentist can treat it to restore your tooth.

Signs a Cavity Is About to Form

In most cases, cavities form from plaque left on the tooth. The plaque breaks down the tooth’s enamel, and causes tooth decay. A cavity is the beginning of tooth decay. Usually a cavity is not extremely noticeable until the tooth decay starts. However, there are a few signs to look out for in the early stages of its development, such as: 

  • No sign! – sadly, many cavities have no sign!  Your dentist can catch these with their dental radiographs, magnification, and lots of light!  One other reason we advocate for 6 month visits or more if needed!
  • Tooth sensitivity or pain when eating and drinking – this is a sign that your outer layer of enamel is wearing down. 
  • Discoloration or tiny white spots – A tiny spot on your tooth that appears white, brown, or black could be a cavity forming. These spots are a sign of demineralization of the outer layer of your tooth. 
  • Bad breath – Consistent bad breath is a sign of food particles trapped in the teeth (or mouth breathing), which might mean plaque is building up somewhere without you knowing it. 

If you have any of the symptoms above, you might have a cavity starting. Before it develops into a full hole in your tooth, however, you can practice better dental hygiene and use fluoride treatments to remineralize the enamel. The key to being able to reverse a cavity is catching it in the initial stage and treating it as quickly as possible. Once your enamel has fully worn down, it might be too late to reverse the tooth decay. 

Layers of a Tooth

A tooth contains three different layers:

  • Enamel: This is the outermost layer of a tooth. This is the layer that protects the underlying layers and once it is breached the health of the tooth is at risk.
  • Dentin: This is the layer directly beneath the enamel. It’s composed of tiny tubes that are connected with the nerves of a tooth. When this layer is exposed, it starts to send pain and sensitivity signals to the brain.
  • Pulp (very center): Consists of blood vessels and nerves. When this is exposed or infected, it sends signals of pain to the brain. It can be VERY sensitive if ever exposed.

What are the stages of cavities? Can cavities be reversed?

There are five stages of cavities, starting with the development of white spots and ending with a full-blown tooth decay that affects the root of the tooth. Catching tooth decay and cavities early on is the best way to prevent further damage and to restore the tooth to its natural condition. 

Stage 1

Development of white spots on the tooth that indicates demineralization of the enamel – quick action can allow you to reverse this damage. Here are some things that will help at this stage (as this is the stage where cavities can be reversed).

Stage 2

There is a hole in the surface. With early intervention from your Lakewood dentist, you can save the tooth in most cases. See your dentist as soon as you can to get a filling or tooth restoration. 

Stage 3

There is a visible discoloration on the tooth and the cavity starts to involve the dentin layer. It will also start to cause some tooth pain. By addressing this with your Lakewood, CO dentist you can hopefully avoid a root canal and save the tooth with an inlay or onlay.

Stage 4

The cavity has reached the pulp with an infection that now has reached the nerves and blood vessels (ouch!). This is a very painful stage. This usually calls for a root canal with a crown.

Stage 5

This is where the infection has gone all the way through the tooth and is in the tissue and bone around the root of the tooth. Swelling of the gums is extremely painful. If the cavity reaches this point, it can affect the whole body and in some cases prove to be fatal. We will usually extract the tooth as soon as possible.

Should I Wait If I Think I Have a Cavity?

If you have any of the symptoms listed above, or if you think you have a cavity forming, schedule an appointment as soon as possible. If it’s early enough, your Lakewood dentist may treat you to help your cavities be reversed. Delaying visiting the dentist may lead to more pain than necessary. It may also lead to more costly and time-intensive treatments down the road. 

Cavity Prevention in Lakewood, CO

Practicing preventative measures is the best way to keep your teeth free from cavities. Follow the steps above and make sure to schedule early dental checkups for children who are one year or older and regular dental checkups at least twice a year for the rest of us. If you think you may have a cavity, it’s best to schedule an appointment with Dr. Elizabeth Turner to assess your unique situation.

For more information about our restorative dental services, visit this page here.

For more information about our general dental services, visit this page here.

About the Author

Dr. Elizabeth Turner is a whole-health, family dentist in Lakewood, CO who provides general, restorative, and cosmetic dental care. She focuses on the mouth-body connection and helps her patients smile confidently, breathe clearer, and live healthier lives. 

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