Can Cavities Go Away On Their Own?

Updated: Jul 17

So you're starting to have some tooth pain and maybe feeling some sensitivity but you're not sure if its a cavity. Does it need to be taken care of or will it go away on its own? Is there something that you can do to prevent it from getting worse? Let's answer all of your questions.


Tooth decay
Tooth decay

Table of Contents


What is a cavity?

The definition of a cavity is a small hole in the tooth but it slowly grows over time because of tooth decay. The teeth decay is caused by bacteria that naturally live in our mouth by digesting all of the sugar that we eat. The byproduct of the sugar is acid which eats away at the enamel. Do you know what a cavity looks like?

Small cavity on the side of a tooth
Small cavity on the side of a tooth

Statistics about dental caries from the CDC:

  • Percent of children and teenagers that have untreated tooth decay is 13.2%

  • Percent of adults with untreated dental caries is 25.9%

That is a lot of people walking around with an undiagnosed problem!



How do cavities form?

A small cavity will start forming when the acid produced by bacteria start to erode the enamel. This process typically starts once it reaches the critical pH level which is below 5.5; The average pH of a normal healthy mouth rests around 6.7


A cavity can form on any surface of the tooth:

  • You can have a cavity on top of the tooth.

  • Cavity in between the teeth.

  • You can even have a cavity on the side of the tooth.

The tooth decay process basically goes through five stages:

  1. Demineralization of the enamel. This is when the acid starts to corrode the enamel.

  2. Enamel decay. The second stage where the acid has eroded a small hole. The cavity will grow very slowly at this point.

  3. Dentin decay. The third stage where the bacteria has penetrated past the enamel and into the dentin. This is when cavities get worse fast.

  4. Pulp decay. When it grows past the dentin and into the nerve of the tooth. You should start expecting a toothache and you might call this the worse cavity ever. You'll probably need a root canal.

  5. A full blown abscess. Well, if you were wondering how long does it take for a cavity to get worse... this is the last stop. You will experience tooth pain from this infection like none other before. You may need an extraction or at the very least the abscess to be drained.


Can cavities go away on their own?

The short answer is no, cavities cannot go away on their own. There is no problem in this world that will cure itself. All problems need to be solved by human intervention along with a side of wisdom.

Cavity inside a filling
Cavity inside a filling

Look at this picture of a cavity inside of an old cavity filling. How would the cavities clean itself? If brushing could get rid of it, it wouldn't have gotten to this point. It is the same as if you popped a tire on your car. The tire is not going to magically reinflate itself. It requires human intervention.



How to prevent a cavity from getting worse.

The good news is that it is possible to stop tooth decay and you can prevent the cavity from getting worse. At the very least you can slow down how fast the cavity grows. You can do this by keeping up on your oral hygiene regime:

  • Brush your teeth twice a day for at least two minutes each session.

  • Use either a toothpaste with fluoride or a nano hydroxyapatite toothpaste.

  • Floss every day!

  • Decrease the amount of sugary treats that you eat and also any type of acidic or sour foods that will drop the pH below the critical level.

  • Drink lots of water so that it helps to buffer and bring your mouth back up to basic levels.

If you do all of the above, it may take a longer time for the cavity to get worse. This applies to all decay that is at least into the dentin but if the caries is still in the enamel, you may be in luck.



Can you reverse a cavity?

It is possible to reverse a small cavity that is still within the enamel of the tooth. Yes, you heard correctly, it is possible to stop teeth from rotting! What's the secret to helping cavities you say?


Tooth decay starts because of demineralization but your body can fight it by remineralization, which is when the hydroxyapatite on the outer layer of your tooth gets repaired.


Your bones and your teeth are made out of hydroxyapatite.

  • Your bones are about 60% composed of it.

  • Your teeth have more than 90% of it, which makes it the hardest substance in your body. Harder than steel with a mohs rating of 5.

You can reverse the cavity if you remineralize the hydroxyapatite and there are two ingredients that can stop the cavity from forming.

  • Fluoride toothpastes. When a fluoride ion comes into contact with hydroxyapatite, it converts it into fluorapatite which is more stable, harder, and less soluble to acid.

hydroxyapatite to fluorapatite
  • Hydroxyapatite toothpastes. This contains the same exact stuff the enamel are made out of and it serves as a reservoir for calcium and phosphate which are the building blocks of remineralization.

Aside from these two, nothing else is capable of killing a cavity. The xylitol toothpaste and the charcoal toothpaste both lack this special effect. They are trendy though.



What prevents cavities?

As stated above, you can prevent tooth decay by maintaining an impeccable oral hygiene regime. You also have to avoid cavity forming foods. If you can do those things, you'll be able to stop your teeth from rotting because they won't even get the chance to.


Just make sure that you are using one of the two recommended toothpastes from above! You should also check to see if the community you are living in has a fluoridated water supply. If not, you may want an extra dose of fluoride somewhere in your diet.


Last but not least, visit the dentist at least once every six months for your dental check up and teeth cleaning. Our long island city dentists put all of our patients on a 6 month schedule.



How to get rid of cavities

We can prevent the cavity from forming and we can reduce the chances of it happening but we can never get rid of cavities completely. It is impossible to stop them 100%. The most that we can do is manage it because caries is a disease just like high blood pressure and diabetes. You can't ever get rid of them but you can always manage them.


For caries, a lot of times you can get it under control and they'll stay quite for many years but all of a sudden they can restart if your oral hygiene slips up.


Can you get rid of cavities at home?

For the small cavities that are still in the enamel, you can stop them and reverse the cavities by using either fluoride or nano hydroxyapatite. You can adjunct your oral hygiene by using a mouthwash as well. Listerine is the most common mouth rinse but if you prefer a more holistic method you can give coconut oil pulling a try.


How to do coconut oil pulling for your teeth:

  1. Get about a table spoon of coconut oil or your favorite oil but make sure it is not acidic!

  2. Rinse your mouth for about 15-20 minutes.

  3. Spit it out and rinse with water.

That's it, it is as simple as that. The only downside is that it takes a long time because Listerine only takes 30 seconds.



When to see a dentist

Of course when all else fails, you should just go see your dentist to have it treated. They can remove the cavity for you with a tooth filling procedure. This is for the smaller and maybe the medium sized cavities. This is what a cavity looks like before and after it is cleaned out.




For the large cavities or the ones that are already into the pulp, you may need a root canal. This is because the infection has gotten to the nerve and treating the nerve requires the removal of the pulp.

completed root canal
completed root canal

These are all procedures that you cannot do at home. There is no home remedy for these.


Take away:

We hope you learned something from this but just to recap... They won't go away on their on their own but certain ones you can reverse and stop. The bigger ones that are already infected must be dealt with by a professional dentist!

David Chen 200 x 200.jpg

About the author: Dr David Chen, DDS

Hello, I'm Dr Chen and I'm an actively practicing dentist in Long Island City, NY. I graduated from Columbia University College of Dental Medicine in 2016 but prior to going to dental school I was already working in the dental field. It's been more than a decade since I first got to know dentistry and let me tell you, time flies by quickly. Since then I've developed a fondness for writing, which is how this all got started!

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Medical Disclaimer:

This blog is purely meant for information purposes and should not be used as medical advice. Each situation in your mouth is unique and complex. It is not possible to give advice nor diagnose any oral conditions based on text nor virtual consultations. The best thing to do is to go in person to see your dentist for an examination and consultation so that you can receive the best care possible.

The purpose of all of this oral health information is to encourage you to see your dentist and to inform you of what you may expect during your visit. Due to the unfortunate nature of dentistry, there isn't really any true home remedies that will get rid of dental problems. Roughly 99.99% of them require in-person intervention by a healthcare professional.

Hint: That is the reason why you can't eliminate seeing dentists in your life!