A cavity does not instantly form overnight, even if you had one too many candy bars. Tooth decay is a slow-moving process that can occur for years before treatment is needed. Cavities are created by acids in the mouth demineralizing teeth surfaces, leading to the formation of tiny holes.
These cavities will continue to expand until they destroy the tooth or lead to infection. The early stages of tooth decay can be reversed with preventative dental procedures like fluoride treatments.
Figuring out when a cavity needs treatment
It can take as long as five years from the time a cavity begins to develop to when the tooth needs treatment to prevent the cavity from spreading further. For some people, though, that period can be as short as a few months.
No two mouths are unique, so there is no standard timeline for the development of cavities. Several factors, like a person’s oral hygiene habits and how often they consume sugary foods/beverages, affect how long it takes for a cavity to progress. Other factors that affect how long it takes before a cavity needs treatment include:
- The location of the tooth: Molars and other teeth in the back of the mouth tend to be more difficult to clean, so tooth decay tends to expand faster in those areas because it provides a better environment
- How healthy a person’s enamel is: Teeth with healthy enamel that gets all the nutrients it needs to re-mineralize itself, like fluoride, are not as vulnerable to quickly progressing tooth decay
- The location of the cavity: Enamel is the strongest part of the body, so a cavity that forms there will take longer to progress than one that develops in the dentin, which is not as durable
Dentists recommend coming in for treatment even if a cavity is still in its early stages. The decay can still be reversed at that point through the process of remineralization. This can prevent the early stage of tooth decay from turning into a cavity.
Decay is caused by teeth losing the minerals that keep them intact. Procedures like fluoride treatments can be used to infuse teeth with fluoride and other vital minerals. As a result, the tooth uses these minerals to repair the damage caused by the decay and strengthens itself.
Remineralization only works before large cavities form on teeth. Other treatments, like dental fillings, are needed once large cavities begin to develop.
Simple things, like good oral hygiene, can protect teeth against tooth decay. Brushing twice daily and flossing once each day are two important things that a person can do to protect their teeth against decay. Using an antibacterial mouthwash that contains fluoride provides additional protection. Other ways to prevent tooth decay include:
- Minimize sugary foods and beverages
- Get preventative treatments, like dental sealants
- Drink water
- Eat foods that contain minerals that teeth need, like green leafy vegetables for calcium
Stop tooth decay in its tracks
Stop the decay on your teeth before it turns into cavities or worse. Call or visit our Carmel clinic to set up an appointment with our dentist.
Check out what others are saying about our dental services on Yelp: Cavity in Carmel, IN.
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