Did you know cavities are the # 1 preventable childhood disease?

Did you know that cavities are one of the top untreated health conditions in the U.S.? What??

This is what sent me down a rabbit hole five years ago. I wanted to know why? How could that still be the same since I graduated from dental hygiene school in the 80s with all the technological advances in medicine? 

I had no idea the answer would be so simple yet so complicated. This is why I make videos like this to share what I have learned. If I only knew this stuff sooner. My daughter did not follow any of what I learned in school. So we learned as we went trying to find solutions to misdiagnosed symptoms over the years. My spidey senses were tingling as her Mom, and I was not buying the answers I was getting.

Additionally, working for a mobile dental company, more than half (57%) of children in the US have had a cavity in one or more of their permanent teeth. An estimated 90% of adults aged 20 and older have had at least one cavity.

Cavities have increased because of the industrial revolution, what we eat has changed, processed softer foods, sugar in almost everything, the water we drink and the way we breathe are not the same as our grandparent’s generation.

What’s inside our mouths?

Our mouths are full of bacteria. Hundreds of different types live on our teeth, gums, tongue, and other places in our mouths. Some bacteria are helpful. But some can be harmful such as those that play a role in the tooth decay process.

Tooth decay is the result of an infection with certain types of bacteria that use sugars in food to make acids. Over time, these acids can make a cavity in the tooth.

If left untreated, a cavity can lead to painful dental complications such as an abscessed tooth and the need for a root canal or an extraction. But, many people wonder if a cavity can be reversed.

Since cavities result from tooth decay that happens over time, caught early, cavities may be halted in their tracks. But, a cavity that’s already developed needs to be treated to avoid problems.

To understand if we can reverse them, first, we need to know more about the cause of cavities and how you can help prevent the tooth decay process from starting, and how it can be stopped or even reversed to keep your child from getting cavities.

You probably know that a dental cavity is a hole in a tooth. But did you know that a cavity is the result of the tooth decay process that happens over time? 

A cavity does not instantly form overnight, even if you have too much candy. Tooth decay is a slow-moving process that can occur for years before treatment is needed. That is why x-rays are so important for diagnosing decay in teeth, especially if we are talking about reversing cavities. 

Cavities are created by acids in the mouth demineralizing teeth surfaces, leading to the formation of tiny holes. Once the cavity becomes a hole, treatment is the only option to keep it from getting bigger. 

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 and hydroxyapatite. We will talk more about this a little later.


It can take as long as five years, from the time a cavity begins to develop in the outer enamel surface of a tooth 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 the same, 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, pH, and mouth breathing, all play a role as well that affects how long it takes for a cavity to form and 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 for bacteria to grow.
  • The location of the cavity: Enamel is the strongest part of the body. With strong, healthy enamel and good habits, the enamel gets all the nutrients it needs to re-mineralize itself, so a cavity that forms there will take longer to progress than one that has moved into the next layer of the tooth in the dentin, which is softer and not as durable.

Decay is caused by teeth losing the minerals that keep them intact. Procedures like fluoride treatments can be used to remineralize teeth along with other vital nutrients and 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. Dentists recommend coming in for treatment even if a cavity is still in its early stages. Once it gets into the dentin layer, it progresses much more quickly; it gets to a place where it can cause pain. Dentistry becomes more expensive when you need root canals to save the teeth or you had them removed and now need replacement to eat, breath,e chew, and function properly. Ask Someone who has lost teeth and needed replacement; they will say they wish they knew to take better care of their mouth


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. 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
  • Control the pH in the mouth 
  • Keep your lips closed and learn to stop mouth breathing


So the answer to Can tooth decay be reversed? Yes, if it is caught early, You can interrupt and even reverse this process to avoid a cavity.

Tooth decay is only reversible in the beginning stages when it has only affected the enamel or the hard outer protective coating of the tooth. Once tooth decay has progressed through the enamel into the softer inner part of the tooth, it is irreversible.

Once a tooth has a physical cavity (opening or hole) inside of it, there is no feasible way to help the enamel grow back on its own. Instead, the cavity will gradually worsen due to the bacterial infection inside of the tooth structure.

Is it Possible to Reverse Tooth Decay?

If you’ve ever searched for dental care or DIY tips online, sites like Pinterest are filled with claims that say it’s possible to reverse cavities, heal your own teeth, and avoid getting dental fillings through seemingly before-undiscovered homeopathic treatments.

Is it true? Can you reverse tooth decay?

The short answer is “no,” but the long answer is “sort of.” Here’s why:

Early Tooth Demineralization Can be Reversed

Some of the popular “I reversed my tooth decay” websites don’t explain the state of damage the tooth was in (with the digital X-rays to show it) before it suddenly healed their teeth.

The earliest stage of a cavity is demineralized enamel. The outer layer of enamel becomes weak and soft due to acids and plaque biofilm coming into contact with it on an extended basis.

Fortunately, demineralized enamel can — to an extent — be remineralized before a physical cavity (hole) ruptures through the surface.

What are some ways to help this happen?

  • Improved hygiene and plaque removal on an everyday basis
  • Protective dental sealants over deep grooves and fissures, which are some of the most cavity-prone surfaces
  • Drinking fluoridated tap water throughout the day
  • Supplementation with a prescription strength fluoride or mouth rinse, provided by your dentist
  • Use of everyday oral hygiene products that contain fluoride
  • Eating more fresh fruits and vegetables, sharp cheddar cheese, and fewer processed carbohydrates
  • Eliminating acidic beverages and those that contain natural or artificial sweeteners

Decayed Enamel Can’t be “Re-Grown”

The types of cells that make up your teeth do not re-grow or repair themselves after the tooth is fully developed. There are currently laboratory studies being conducted with stem cells to try to make this a potential reality. But as of yet, it’s physically impossible.

Once a tooth has a physical cavity (opening or hole) inside of it, there is no feasible way to help the enamel grow back on its own. Instead, the cavity will gradually worsen due to the bacterial infection inside of the tooth structure.

Ideally, you would want to treat the cavity as soon as it’s diagnosed and while it’s as small as possible. When you do, your dentist can place a minimally invasive filling and preserve as much healthy tooth structure as possible.

But untreated cavities will expand to the point that they require larger fillings. Or worse, they will reach into the nerve chamber and create an abscess. What could have initially been treated with a simple filling now becomes a situation requiring a root canal and a crown, or you opt for the cheaper just take it out option. This is when dentistry gets expensive. We wait because there is no pain. No pain, no problem, right?

If You Think You Have a Cavity?

Early diagnosis is the key to preventing your tooth decay from spreading. Sometimes, you can catch the possible cavity before it has actually broken through your tooth.

Let your dentist know if you’re experiencing any sensitivity on specific teeth, feel a rough tooth surface, or notice discoloration in the surface of your enamel. It is better to be safe than sorry. Fear and trust are the two main reasons people don’t go to the dentist. Find someone you trust. If you don’t think you have a cavity, get a second opinion. Follow your gut. We have those intuitions for a reason, and no two dentists are alike. One may say it is a cavity one may say, let’s watch it and reevaluate at the next visit. X-rays are important for early diagnosis.  

How long does it take for tooth decay to reverse?

In most cases, three to four months is a reasonable time frame to expect remineralization to take effect. Most often, a dentist will suggest you come back in six months if they have found the beginning stages of a cavity.

If Caught early, they may be halted in their tracks. But, a cavity that’s already developed needs to be treated to avoid the bigger problems mentioned earlier.

As mentioned, a cavity forms through a process that takes place over time. This process can be challenging to prevent, primarily because of the foods we typically eat and how we breathe.

A cavity is caused by a bacteria—streptococcus mutans—present in your mouth at all times. Any time sugar enters your mouth (and that could be any type of food that breaks down into sugar, even fruit, crackers, or grains), it gets broken down by the s. mutans bacteria.

Acid is created as a byproduct of the process, and this is where it gets dangerous for your oral health. The acid in your mouth works to soften and dissolve the enamel on your teeth, giving the bacteria a place to hide. Once that happens, it is much harder to remove them from your mouth.

There is a common myth today about cavities: Once tooth decay begins, it’s impossible to reverse, and your only recourse is the drill. That simply isn’t true. So, is it possible to get rid of a cavity without a filling? Yes. But, as far as the question: can you reverse a cavity? “Reverse” may not be the best term. A better way to describe how to avoid a filling is to “stop tooth decay from worsening.”

Learn more about the cause of cavities and how you can help prevent them.

To explain how to stop cavities that have already started to develop, we can turn to Westin A. Price, a well-known dentist of the 20th century. While traveling around the world to discover what causes tooth decay, Dr. Price found that many indigenous peoples had perfect teeth. As soon as they were exposed to a western diet, they started experiencing tooth decay and chronic illness.

Tooth enamel is incredibly tough and can withstand about five acid attacks a day, but it’s easy to weaken enamel if you’re someone who likes to snack frequently, as your teeth never get a chance to recover.

How can you stop a cavity from getting worse?

Between oil pulling (swishing coconut oil around your mouth), homemade toothpaste, and even claims that diet alone can fix a decayed tooth, the internet is full of weird and often unlikely remedies for decay. But is there any truth to reversing the damage naturally?

First, there are two levels of decay to be aware of. Tooth decay is only reversible when it affects the enamel of the tooth. Once decay progresses to the dentine below the enamel, it is irreversible.

If your dentist spots the decay in its very early stages, you might be able to avoid the drill. Fluoride varnish can be applied to help prevent damage from progressing past the enamel while also ‘re-mineralizing’ the tooth. Dentine, however, forms most of the tooth covering the central ‘pulp.’ This layer can be highly sensitive to pain, explaining that dull or sharp ache that tells you that something is up.

There is no evidence to date that tooth decay can be reversed or that oil pulling can reverse tooth decay. Prevention is the key to avoiding damage.

Prevention, Prevention, Prevention

I will always be a prevention advocate. 

It is much better to prevent tooth decay in the first place by following a good oral hygiene routine which includes implementing the correct brushing and flossing technique combined with watching your diet and breathing through your nose.