Most of us tend to think that once we get a cavity there isn’t much we can do to resolve the problem, other than having a hole drilled through our teeth to make way for a filling. However, this isn’t always the case. When you have a cavity, there is a lot that can be done before the drill is fired up. In fact, the steps outlined in this article may help you to completely—and naturally—reverse your cavities.
understanding your teeth’s natural ability to rebuild
In my opinion, many dentists are a little too quick to grab their drill and “fix” cavities with synthetic fillings. The truth is that the process of filling cavities weakens the teeth and can cause more issues in the future, but if we truly understand the natural capabilities of teeth, we may be able to prevent this altogether.
FACT: Your teeth are much more than the pearly whites that meet the eye.
From the outside, in, your teeth consist of three major parts: the crown, dentin, and pulp.
The crown is what you see when you look in the mirror. It’s the shell-like, enamel structure on the outside of the tooth that is composed primarily of calcium rods (96%), along with water and protein.
The dentin is located just under the crown and covers the pulp. It consists of calcified tissue comprised of 70% calcium and 30% protein. Along with the enamel (in the tooth’s crown), the dentin is the primary part of the tooth affected by demineralization, or cavities.
Finally, the pulp is the soft tissue at the center of the teeth. This part of the tooth contains nerve endings and blood vessels, so it is very important to keep it protected. When decay and damage reached the pulp it is very painful, and, in most cases, requires a root canal for repair.
Now that you know a little more about the basic structure of your teeth, consider this: Just like your hair, nails, and skin, your teeth are constantly rebuilding and regenerating. How else could your teeth last an entire lifetime (assuming proper care) and withstand the constant abuse of biting, chewing, and tearing?
More specifically, the teeth go through a process called remineralization, which happens when calcium and phosphate ions deposit in the spaces of your enamel to repair and rebuild them. The only problem is that we are constantly engaging in activities that threaten this natural process.
how cavities are really formed
Since we were young we’ve been told that sugar is what rots our teeth and causes cavities. And while sugar does play a role in tooth decay, there is far more to consider.
Here are the four main factors that contribute to the development of cavities:
- Your saliva and its properties—including minerals, volume, pH, and more.
- Your oral microbiome—the millions of microbes in your mouth, whether harmful, beneficial, or neutral.
- Your diet—whether or not you’re getting enough of the proper nutrients for remineralization.
- How frequently these three factors make a perfect storm for cavity formation.
Not sure what a “perfect storm for cavities” looks like? Let me explain…
First, in order for a tooth to become susceptible to cavity development, there must be plaque formed on its surface. Plaque forms when certain food debris combines with proteins from your saliva, and for this to occur, the harmful, cavity-causing bacteria need foods that they are fond of.
The harmful bacteria that cause cavities generally don’t like foods like broccoli or kale because the cellulose in them is too difficult for the bacteria to digest. Instead, they lovesimple carbohydrates and sugar.
After the cavity-causing bacteria consume foods like white flour and refined sugar, they begin to excrete acids (much in the same way you have to go to the bathroom after eating a meal filled with unhealthy foods). Together, these bacteria and the acids they expel create a colony of biofilm, which produces plaque.
This may sound really technical, but you’re probably more familiar with this process than you realize. Just think about how your teeth feel after eating a handful of crackers—almost like there are “sweaters”’ coating each of them.. Well, that fuzzy feeling is this process in action.
Eventually, the bacteria create enough acid to cause a small hole to form in your tooth structure, which gets progressively worse if it’s not stopped or reversed.
The good news is that, every time you brush your teeth, you are stopping bacteria from creating a hole in your teeth. The bad news is that, if you don’t change your diet, the cavity causing bacteria become collectively more powerful than your toothbrushing, preventing you from fully eliminating them with brushing and flossing alone.
This is why toothbrushing and flossing are only part of the solution for reversing cavities naturally. You must have a good diet comprised of healthy fats and lots of non-starchy vegetables in order to fully prevent cavity formation and support the remineralization of teeth.
It’s also important to brush properly, supplement with the right nutrients, and ensure that your hormones are balanced if you want to reverse cavities naturally. We’ll look at each of these topics more closely, but you can also read more about how cavities form in my article, Everything You Need to Know About Cavities (But Were Afraid to Ask).
reversing cavities naturally, no drill necessary
Now that you understand a little bit more about cavities and how they form, let’s look at how you can reverse your cavities naturally.
1. what to eat and what to avoid to reverse cavities
When it comes to preventing or reversing cavities, you must first consider your diet. This means eliminating foods that contribute to cavity formation (mainly sugars and carbohydrates), but it also means adding in the right foods that prevent decay and support remineralization.
Here’s my specific advice for eating to reverse cavities:
- Reduce or eliminate sugar and carbohydrates—feed the cavity forming bacteria.
- Make sure you’re getting enough fat soluble vitamins—These include vitamins A, D, E and K.
- Pay specific attention to your intake of vitamin K—The K vitamins were identified by Weston Price as Activator X, an essential element for healthy teeth. Since our diets naturally contain much more vitamin K1, for most people this means focusing on vitamin K2. Vitamin K2 works synergistically with vitamins A and D in the formation, growth, and remineralization of teeth.
- Make sure you’re getting enough minerals—Especially calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus.
- Reduce your phytic acid intake—Found in mostly in plant seeds, phytic acid interferes with nutrient absorption, especially calcium.
2. supplements to support teeth remineralization
You read that right – you can actually add supplements to help remineralize your teeth. These supplements include:
- Vitamin D3
- Vitamin K2
- Oral probiotics
I discuss this topic in more detail in my article, Top 6 Supplements to Remineralize Your Teeth.
3. use a remineralizing toothpaste
Most conventional toothpastes cause more problems than they solve. In fact, I often tell my patients that I’d rather have them dry brush without toothpaste instead of using mainstream brands that are often backed by millions of dollars of marketing capital.
This is because these toothpastes are packed with chemicals that don’t help your saliva, oral microbiome, or reminalization. Instead, they can actually cause further damage because of the toxic ingredients they contain.
I recommend using a natural toothpaste that supports remineralization, and I’ve compiled my favorite recommendations here. You can also try my Chocolate Lover’s DIY Toothpaste, which was designed specifically for remineralization and a healthy oral microbiome.
4. don’t over-brush teeth
Many people are either brushing their teeth way too hard, or they are using toothbrushes with very coarse bristles. The problem with this is that your teeth are fairly soft, and if you’re wearing off the enamel faster than your teeth can remineralize, you could be contributing to cavities.
This is definitely a catch-22—that is, you need to be brushing well enough to sufficiently remove bacteria formation, but if you’re using an incorrect toothbrush or toothpaste, or if you’re brushing too hard, you could be doing yourself more harm than good.
In addition to using a remineralizing toothpaste along with a toothbrush with very soft bristles, I recommend that you try brushing in a gentle, circular motion. In fact, I often suggest that my patients brush their teeth with their opposite hand.
5. check for hormone imbalances
If you feel as though you’re already following all of the aforementioned guidelines and you’re still struggling with cavities, you might want to have your hormones checked. When hormones are out of balance, they can cause tooth decay. Common causes of hormone balance include birth control pills, prescription drugs, diabetes, autoimmune disease, and toxin exposure.
when do you need a filling?
Our teeth have been designed to rebuild themselves to prevent and reverse tooth decay, but there are some situations in which a filling is actually the solution to your problems. If your cavity is causing pain, sensitivity or has reached the pulp of your teeth—it’s time to see a dentist and opt for a filling.
But before the situation progress to this point, I recommend having a conversation with your dentist to see how they feel about remineralization practices and techniques. Then, if you do happen to get a cavity, you can ask them how deep it is and whether they think there’s a chance you could support natural remineralization processes and potentially avoid the drill.
I’ve seen many patients successfully reverse cavities, and now that you’re equipped with this knowledge, I feel confident you can too.
Dr. Mark Burhenne DDS