There are several home remedies to get rid of cavities, as well as effective prevention methods that anyone can (and should) do for their dental health — and overall wellness.
It’s the dreaded phrase no one wants to hear at their annual exam: “you’ve got a cavity.” It’s important to understand what that phrase means, how some cavities can be treated at home, and how to prevent more cavities.
What causes cavities? Plaque and acid sitting on the teeth cause cavities. Pathogenic (bad) bacteria in the mouth produce acids that eat away at a tooth’s enamel. Enamel erosion causes demineralization and tooth decay. Small holes (dental cavities) begin to form in the tooth.
Now, for the good news: In some cases, you can get rid of a small cavity without a filling. Some smaller cavities can be reversed through a process called remineralization.
Remineralization restores weakened enamel, replacing essential minerals to strengthen the tooth’s outer layer. We’ll discuss the top 9 ways to remineralize and reverse small cavities, all of which double as prevention methods for cavities.
What are some symptoms of a cavity? The symptoms of a cavity include:
- Tooth sensitivity
- Pain in the tooth
- Bleeding or swollen gums
- Tooth discoloration
- Small hole in the tooth
- Bad breath (halitosis)
Unfortunately, not all cavities are treatable with remineralization. This option will only work in the early stages of tooth decay, or the pre-cavity stage.
If you notice pain, visible holes, or bleeding accompany your cavity, it’s time to see a functional dentist, who will tell you if remineralization is still an option.
If the damage is treatable, here are 9 ways to reverse your cavity at home and prevent future decay.
1. Use hydroxyapatite toothpaste.
Not enough people know about hydroxyapatite toothpaste. It’s as effective as fluoride toothpaste but without most of the potential side effects.
For years, fluoride toothpaste has dominated the market, but mainstream toothpastes often come with concerning chemicals. One of the problematic materials is SLS, which causes skin irritation and ulcers, and is often found in laundry detergent.
Other troubling ingredients include triclosan, which may trigger allergic reactions or antibiotic resistance, and silica, which wears down enamel.
Fluoride itself has a long list of concerns as well, including neurotoxicity in large doses, staining teeth, and even weakening bones. Particularly for kids, it’s bad news. Honestly, a wet toothbrush without toothpaste might be overall better than fluoride toothpaste.
That’s why I recommend hydroxyapatite toothpaste. This fluoride-free toothpaste is just as effective at cavity prevention, but with far more benefits. Hydroxyapatite is:
- Microbiome-friendly. Fluoride kills bad bacteria, but also some good ones. Hydroxyapatite balances your oral microbiome and makes it more difficult for bad bacteria to attach to teeth.
- Biocompatible. Hydroxyapatite is safe to swallow — enough so that you could swallow a whole tube! Especially since kids are still developing their swallowing reflex, this can bring a lot of peace of mind since swallowing fluoride can lead to fluorosis.
- Naturally whitening. Hydroxyapatite naturally helps the teeth to appear whiter. Instead of the discoloration that fluoride treatments can induce, hydroxyapatite improves tooth coloring and appearance.
- Reduces sensitivity. Hydroxyapatite is a natural way to treat tooth sensitivity, reducing the pain that comes from worn-down enamel.
Seeing as hydroxyapatite makes up 97% of enamel, it’s simply a better way to remineralize the teeth.
While you’re practicing your dental hygiene, don’t forget to…:
- …floss, which is crucial for controlling interdental plaque.
- …scrape your tongue with a metal tool can also help to balance oral bacteria.
- …skip the mouthwash since most mouth rinses dry out the mouth and kill good bacteria.
2. Eat a tooth-friendly diet.
What you eat provides the building blocks for your teeth, either contributing to decay or preventing it. Eating sugary foods or simple carbs like crackers and chips or drinking sweet beverages like juices and sodas can speed up cavity development.
The bottom line for tooth-friendly foods: Avoid carbohydrates and sugar intake!
What is the best way to prevent cavities? The best way to prevent cavities is to eat a diet that strengthens your teeth while practicing proper oral hygiene.
For a tooth-friendly diet, you’ll want to eat primarily whole foods:
- Grass-fed dairy and meats
- Pastured eggs
- Wild-caught fish
- Fermented foods
I tell people to shop the perimeter of the grocery store instead of opting for processed foods in the middle aisles.
It’s also important to “eat the rainbow,” choosing many different colors of fruits and vegetables to ensure you’re getting the most nutrients possible.
You’ll want to opt for remineralization-friendly foods full of vitamin D, calcium, omega-3 fatty acids, and antioxidants to “get rid of” small cavities. In other words, reduce and remineralize.
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3. Chew sugar-free gum.
Sugar-free gum, specifically gum sweetened with xylitol, can be a powerful agent in cavity prevention. Make sure to grab a piece after meals for a sweet treat that’s kind to teeth.
Chewing xylitol gum after a meal can wash away harmful bacteria and food particles in your teeth, removing them before they become a problem.
If your microbiome needs help, xylitol can also reduce the overall number of harmful bacteria in your mouth. While it’s balancing bacteria, xylitol is also able to make plaque less sticky, inhibiting it from clinging onto your teeth as effectively and making it easier to brush off.
Sugar-free gum should be your go-to after eating out or a quick snack. Those are amazing benefits from a piece of gum!
Warning: Don’t let your dog accidentally consume xylitol. Their digestive systems don’t know how to handle it.
4. Oil pull.
Oil pulling is growing in popularity as people understand its myriad benefits. While the name may sound mysterious, the process is simple: Swish organic oil around the mouth for up to 20 minutes, then spit it into the trash.
Oil pulling has been practiced for thousands of years in Ayurvedic medicine, and modern science recommends it as well. Research has shown that oil pulling can:
- Decrease plaque formation
- Combat gingivitis
- Fight halitosis
- Reduce the number of harmful bacteria in the oral microbiome
You can start with as little as a minute or two and work your oil pulling up to higher lengths of time. It’s possible to pull with many different types of oil, but my personal favorite is coconut oil.
5. Chew oral probiotics.
The mouth has its own distinct combination of bacteria and microorganisms. An oral probiotic can boost the amount of helpful bacteria in your mouth, and chewing them is the most effective delivery system.
People who are more cavity-prone, as well as those trying to reverse a cavity, can benefit from oral probiotics introducing more of these helpful bacteria.
Gut probiotics are more common to see and help maintain a positive bacterial balance in the digestive system. However, the oral microbiome has different native bacterial strains and therefore needs its own supplement.
Oral probiotics can prevent and combat tooth decay with little to no side effects. They typically come in chewable tablets or lozenges, and are best taken in the morning right after your A.M. dental care routine.
6. Breathe through your nose.
Dental health is closely linked to your airway health. Mouth breathing or sleep disorders can cause the oral tissue to dry out, reducing the saliva that protects the teeth and leaving the teeth exposed to decay.
People who breathe through their mouth are much more likely to experience gum issues and dental caries.
Common signs of daytime or nighttime mouth breathing include:
- Misaligned teeth
- Chronic cold or stuffy nose
- Feeling fatigued even after a full night’s rest
- Sucking on the thumb or fingers (in children)
- Behavioral issues (particularly in children)
All of these symptoms can indicate airway issues. A functional dentist can look at these issues and treat the root cause, preventing cavities and clearing up the airway for optimal health. If you are trying to reverse a cavity, mouth breathing is not an option.
Breathing through the nose not only keeps the mouth moisturized. It provides valuable nitric oxide that helps the body heal and supports cardiovascular health. You’ll be preventing cavities and feeling rested in no time.
7. Consider dental sealants.
Dental sealants are thin coatings that are adhered to the surface of back teeth. Covering the molars and premolars can be an excellent option for certain patients, keeping bacteria away from the enamel and providing added protection for hard-to-reach teeth.
Dental sealants are primarily used in children and early teenagers. They can be a good option for cavity prevention in the following types of patients:
- Little ones with a particularly high cavity risk, whether genetic or due to lifestyle factors
- Kids who naturally have deep grooves in their molars, which can trap bacteria and be difficult to brush
- Children who have just had their first set of molars erupt, around age 6
- Adolescents who have just had their permanent molars or premolars erupt, around age 12
- Children who have special needs that make brushing and flossing a challenge
However, dental sealants are not a good option for children who have existing decay on the back teeth, grind their teeth, or have acid reflux. These factors can wear down the sealant material.
Also, technique matters! Ideally, look for a dentist who uses cavity-detecting cameras or scanners prior to placing them. Using ozone to disinfect is another great sign that a dentist is looking out for your overall health.
A good dentist should use biocompatible materials for dental sealants and fillings. Ceramic-based sealant material is far superior to BPA or bis-GMA plastics. The material used should also be based on your child’s tooth anatomy and cavity risk.
8. Supplement with vitamins D3 and K2.
Even when eating a tooth-friendly diet, it can be challenging to get every nutrient in large enough quantities to remineralize the teeth. Vitamins D3 and K2 are two crucial nutrients for oral health that most people are deficient in — up to 90% of the population could use more!
When trying to reduce and remineralize cavities, vitamins D3 and K2 build healthy layers of enamel and dentin while helping your body absorb the calcium it needs. Together, they contribute to a robust outer surface for the tooth.
Other tooth-friendly supplements include licorice root, calcium, and hydrolyzed collagen.
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9. See your dentist.
Don’t skip your twice-yearly visits to your dental practice. Regular checkups and cleanings can help catch cavities early, when they can still be remineralized with home remedies.
Additionally, once plaque is allowed to sit undisturbed for 48 hours, it hardens into tartar that only a dentist can remove. Frequent cleanings are crucial in preventing tooth decay and gum disease caused by tartar under the gumline.
Left untreated, larger cavities will spread into the inner layers of the tooth, hitting the sensitive dentin and even infecting the soft tissue (pulp). Other treatment options may be necessary as the cavity progresses, depending on the severity of the decay.
Here’s what your dentist can provide for you, depending on the level of decay:
- Fillings. These minor procedures treat small cavities that are still contained to the enamel surface of the tooth.
- Crowns. Crowns can be used when there are large cavities, or when the decay has reached the dentin layer. They cover the entire surface of the tooth.
- Root canals. Root canal procedures remove the soft tissue from inside the tooth, then cover that tooth with a crown.
No matter what stage your decay is, there are treatment options available. You can always get rid of cavities: at home in the early stages, or with your dentist in later stages.
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