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How To Get Rid of Cavities - The Truth

Updated: Jan 19

The only way to get rid of cavities without a dentist is by using a toothpaste with remineralization capabilities. All tooth decay begins with demineralization of the enamel but fortunately that is a reversible process via remineralization.

cavity underneath sealant

However, remineralizing the enamel only works on pre-cavities and early stage cavities, which are the first two stages of tooth decay. The decay in these two stages are both located within the enamel of the tooth and no further.

If the cavity progresses into the dentin which is the next layer, it will become irreversible and the damage is permanent. At that point, only a dentist will be able to get rid of the cavity because there is no home remedy in the world that can get rid of dentin decay. At most, home remedies can slow down the progression but will never be able to reverse it nor repair the damaged tooth.

Table of Contents:

How to get rid of a cavity

The only way to stop and reverse a cavity at home is by using a remineralization toothpaste, which repairs the demineralized parts of the enamel. These toothpastes will strengthen the teeth by providing building blocks for the enamel repair. This will only work on decay that is contained within the enamel.

Here is what you should do to get rid of cavities:

  1. Floss. Use that floss to remove plaque and food in between your teeth.

  2. Brush with a remineralization toothpaste. Brush for at least 2 minutes twice a day with either a fluoridated toothpaste or one with hydroxyapatite.

  3. Rinse. Rinse your mouth out with water really well to remove all residual food and plaque from your teeth.

  4. Rub toothpaste into tooth. Now take some extra toothpaste and rub it all over the tooth with the cavity. You can use your fingers or with a toothbrush but make sure you rinse the brush out before you do this step.

  5. Wait 15-30 minutes. Let that toothpaste remain on the tooth for as long as possible for the remineralization effect to work. If you need to spit because there is too much saliva, you can do so but do not rinse out yet.

  6. Mouthwash. Rinse out really well and use your mouthwash of choice.

  7. Repeat as needed. Try to do this at least 1-2x per day until your next dental check up.

Just to reiterate, this will only work on decay that is in the enamel because that is still reversible. If your cavity has progressed into the dentin, this method will not work.

The remineralization toothpaste has to either contain fluoride or hydroxyapatite because those are the only two substances with proven results. This means that if you're using a toothpaste which does not contain either of the two ingredients above, it will have ZERO EFFECT on your cavity.

Here are some common toothpastes which don't get rid of cavities because they do not have remineralization capabilities:

  • Charcoal

  • Xylitol

  • Fluoride-free

  • Herbal

For what reason would you choose a toothpaste that has no remineralization capabilities? You've got our dentists stumped on that one!

How fluoride reverses cavities

Fluoride reverses cavities by strengthening the enamel and acting as a catalyst to the remineralization process. This is the basis for preventative dentistry.

Fluoride strengthens the enamel

The strengthening of the enamel occurs when fluoride ions come into contact with the hydroxyl ion of hydroxyapatite. The fluoride ion replaces the hydroxyl group, thus transforming hydroxyapatite into fluorapatite.

Here is a diagram showing the transformation from hydroxyapatite to fluorapatite:

hydroxyapatite to fluorapatite

This new structure, fluorapatite has several improved features over the hydroxyapatite:

  • Increased stability

  • Increased hardness

  • Reduced solubility

Basically, it is a bigger, better, and more resilient structure than hydroxyapatite. It also becomes more resistant to cavities and acid dissolution.

Fluoride makes the teeth more resistant to acid attacks and cavities because it lowers the pH level for when the enamel can start dissolving. Hydroxyapatite has a critical pH level of 5.5 where once the pH drops below that, cavities can start forming. Fluorapatite on the other hand has a critical pH of 4.5 which makes it 10x more resistant since pH is logarithmic.

It can undo the beginning stages of a cavity, which is precipitated by a drop in the pH in the mouth into an acidic environment.

Fluoride is a catalyst for remineralization

In order for fluorapatite to form, ten calcium ions and six phosphate ions are required for every two fluoride ions. Basically the formation of fluorapatite pulls in calcium and phosphate which are basically the building blocks of enamel. The process of the fluoride replacing the hydroxyl ion kick starts the entire remineralization process.

Consequently if there is inadequate calcium or phosphate ions, the remineralization can be limited. Therefore it is important for the individual to be consuming enough calcium and phosphate in their diet so that it does not become a limiting factor. Its not enough just to use a fluoridated toothpaste, your diet also needs to be optimized!

How hydroxyapatite reverses cavities

The nano hydroxyapatite in toothpastes can reverse cavities via its own mechanisms but it also does not preclude the effects of residual fluoride in the saliva.

The effects of hydroxyapatite:

  • Serves as a reservoir of calcium and phosphate ions, which teeth can use in the remineralization process.

  • Creates a synthetic coating of hydroxyapatite over teeth to protect them.

  • Facilitates removal of biofilm by adsorbing to bacterial cell walls causing them to coaggregate.

Uninhibited fluoride action

One of the best things about hydroxyapatite is that it does not prevent fluoride from strengthening your teeth. There will be residual fluoride that comes from our drinking water and it allows the fluoride to work on the teeth. A lot of people choose hydroxyapatite as a fluoride alternative but it in fact does not stop the fluoride from working!

When to see dentist

Stopping and reversing cavities at home with remineralizing toothpastes only work on enamel decay but once it becomes dentin decay, you need to see a dentist. Tooth decay that has reached the dentin is no longer reversible and the damage that was done is now permanent.

medium sized cavity into dentin
medium sized cavity into dentin

How your dentist removes cavities

The only way to treat cavities in the dentin is by doing a cavity filling procedure. The procedure requires you to be numb in order to remove the cavity first and then fill it back in afterwards.

  1. Administer local anesthesia.

  2. Remove the cavity by drilling it out.

  3. Apply conditioner, primer, and bond to the tooth.

  4. Place tooth filling material.

  5. Cure it to harden the filling.

  6. Adjust and polish the dental filling.

A cavity filling procedure is done only for tooth decay that is contained within the dentin. If the decay progresses further such as reaching the pulp or even forming an abscess, more complex treatments would be required.

  • Decay in the pulp. To remove this cavity you would require a root canal, which separates the nerve from the tooth. Afterwards you will get a dental crown to protect the tooth afterwards.

  • Dental abscess. A tooth abscess may require a root canal and crown if the integrity of the tooth is not too compromised. If the tooth is severely compromised, you may need a tooth extraction.

How to prevent cavities at home

Even after you've stopped a cavity or had it removed by a dentist, you can always get new cavities that form. In order to prevent them from developing again you must practice good oral hygiene, minimize sugar intake, and get a dental check up every 6 months.

  • Good oral hygiene. You should brush for two minutes at least twice a day with a toothpaste that can remineralize your teeth. You should also floss before going to bed.

  • Minimize sugar intake. Try to adhere to a diet that is low in sugar or carbohydrates in general because they can convert into sugar. Sugar is what gives bacteria the fuel they need to cause cavities.

  • Dental check up. It is recommended to check in with your dentist for a routine exam and dental cleaning every 6 months. This way if there is anything small that is forming, you can catch it quickly and try to reverse them.

  • Sugar-free gum. Chewing gum that contains xylitol can help fight the bacteria that cause cavities but it cannot reverse it. Basically what xylitol does is it disrupts the energy production process for the bacteria. The bacteria expend energy to process xylitol without any gains and therefore ends up starving itself to death.

  • Diet rich in calcium and phosphate. Calcium and phosphate are the building blocks for tooth remineralization. You must consume foods that are rich in it so that you don't limit the remineralization process. Dairy products such as milk, yogurt, and cheese are high in it!

  • Mouth rinse. You should also use a mouth rinse as an adjunct to your brushing and flossing. The rinsing can help remove food debris as well as buffer the oral cavity to bring it back up from acidic levels. Cavities start forming once the pH in the mouth drops below 5.5; Some popular mouth rinses are Listerine, salt water, essential oils, and coconut oil for oil pulling.

These tips need to be practiced on a daily basis because there is no one time cure that can permanently prevent cavities by doing it once. You need to do these things everyday in order to keep cavities away.

The Verdict

It is possible to get rid of cavities but only decay that is in the enamel and that is accomplished by using a toothpaste with remineralization abilities. However, if the cavity manages to grow into the dentin, it will no longer be reversible and you must seek out professional help. Only a dentist can get rid of decay that is beyond the enamel.

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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!

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