It’s a common misconception that once a cavity has developed, it will just disappear on its own. Even if the cavity is caught very early on, it still requires dedicated brushing, flossing, and exposure to fluoride for reversal. Tooth decay can progress quickly if left untreated and can lead to unwanted oral health issues down the line. Our Hudsonville dentists want anyone experiencing a cavity to seek treatment as soon as possible to avoid any unnecessary pain or tooth damage. Continue reading to learn why cavities should be treated once they’re discovered and how you can prevent them altogether. Stages of Tooth Decay Did you know that there are 5 distinct stages that tooth decay goes through that contribute to the development of a cavity? Each stage is characterized by changes in appearance and or sensations felt. The main stages of tooth decay are as follows: \tDemineralization: In this stage, the tooth enamel is exposed to acids from bacteria that have interacted with sugars and starches. \tEnamel Decay: The enamel is continuing to break down and cavities can form in teeth. \tDentin Decay: During the 3rd stage, the decay has reached the dentin layer of the tooth underneath the enamel. Once decay spreads to this soft tissue, pain can occur. \tPulp Decay: This major stage of decay occurs when the cavity reaches the pulp. The pulp contains nerves and blood vessels in the tooth. Decay here can cause extreme inflammation. \tDental Abscesses: When the bacteria inside the cavity spreads beneath the pulp and forms a pocket of pus, you have a dental abscess. Abscesses are often very painful, but some can go unnoticed. Reversal of Early Cavities The only time in which cavities can be reversed is in the early stages of demineralization. Dedicated oral hygiene is critical to restoring lost minerals in your teeth and stopping decay from progressing. Unfortunately, many do not catch cavities at this stage, and they pass the point of no return. Once bacteria and decay get through enamel, enough damage has already been done. A cavity is not going to stop once it’s started. It will require a filling or some other form of treatment. Our Hudsonville dentists urge you to see us ASAP if you are experiencing any symptoms of a cavity. This can include increased sensitivity to hot, cold, or sweet foods and pain when chewing or biting down. If a cavity is neglected, it can develop into a much more serious complication. Necessary Treatment Options There are several ways that our dentists can treat a cavity. The severity of the decay oftentimes determines whether a more intensive solution is required. It is never wise to let a cavity sit. If left untreated, the spread of the decay will worsen and could lead to tooth extraction. When the cavity is small to medium in size, a dental filling will suffice. Our dentists will use tooth-colored composite resin to fill the cavity and closely match your natural enamel. This is the traditional way to treat smaller cavities, but other methods may have to be implemented if it is larger. Other procedures used to treat cavities include: \tDental crowns \tRoot canal therapy \tInlay or onlays \tTooth extraction Our dentists will examine the affected tooth to check how deep the decay has gone. Their findings will then influence what treatment option is best for you and your oral health. Preventing the Formation of Cavities Obviously, the best situation to be in is one where you have no cavities. You can prevent cavities by following an oral hygiene routine every day. That means brushing your teeth twice a day, flossing daily, and using a mouthwash. It's most beneficial if you brush your teeth for two minutes in the morning and at night. Be sure to also use a toothpaste that contains fluoride for extra protection against plaque buildup. Make your at-home cleanings even better by angling the brush at a 45-degree angle so both your gums and teeth are brushed. Aside from brushing and flossing, try to limit your exposure to overly starchy or sugary foods if you can. Foods of this type heavily contribute to tooth decay and require that you thoroughly brush after consuming them. Our dentists also encourage you to visit our office for a professional teeth cleaning every 6 months or as often as directed. During these appointments, we will take note of any arising issues and clean hardened tartar off teeth that otherwise, is difficult to remove at home. Practice Dental Hygiene Now for a Healthier Future Cavities require immediate attention from our dentists in Hudsonville, MI. Delaying treatment, though it is tempting, can result in further tooth decay and more involved procedures. At-home oral care paired with regular teeth cleanings can help prevent cavities altogether. Call Hudsonville Dental at (616) 209-4024 to make an appointment today.