Can tooth decay be repaired without drilling?

There is a lot of excitement in the dental press at the moment about the development of a new technique to repair teeth with early signs of decay. This product will be released sometime in the future after scientific studies are finalised. Although this is very good news, it is actually not ‘new’ news at all.

Teeth have always been capable of 'self-repair', as long as we provide them with the correct environment to do so. This process is called remineralisation, and it is surprisingly simple to achieve.

What is remineralisation?

It the process by which calcium and other minerals are restored to damaged tooth structure. 

Is it  always possible to remineralise decayed teeth?

No it isn't.

Tooth decay has to be caught early on for this process to work. When decay has reached through the enamel (surface layer) into the dentine (second layer) of the tooth, a filling is essential. 

How do we support our teeth to repair/remineralise themselves?

  • The first step is to be aware that our teeth have the early signs of decay. This is a diagnosis can only be made by dental healthcare professional, through visual examination and the use of dental X-rays. Your dentist will assess the severity of the decay and the capacity of the tooth to remineralise. If decay has gone too far, it must be filled. Catch it early enough and you can slow and/or completely stop its progress.

  • Get the plaque off your teeth and keep plaque levels as low as you can, consistentlyPlaque is the mass of bacteria that grows on our teeth and it is the cause of tooth decay. Brush your teeth thoroughly and use floss or interdental brushes every day.

  • Stop feeding the decay process. Every time we eat food or drink beverages that contains sugar, we are offering the bacteria in our plaque a free feast. They convert that sugar into the acid that ruins our teeth. Reduce sugar and the conversion to acid cannot occur.

  • Drink plenty of water. Water is the main building block for saliva, the greatest protective and healing agent for our teeth. If you have tooth decay it is very likely that you are not drinking enough water.  

  • Consume a high calcium diet. Do not automatically go to dairy because it is not crucial to increasing calcium intake. Green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds, tinned salmon and sardines and bone-based broths/stocks provide highly absorbable forms of calcium.

  • Fluoride or not fluoride? Fluoride does increase the strength of tooth enamel and increases the rate of tooth repair, however, relying fluoride without the prior steps will fail. Fluoride cannot work if plaque is left on the teeth, if too much sugar is eaten and if there is insufficient calcium to support it.

As you read these points, you will realise they are exactly the same steps dentists recommend to prevent tooth decay from starting in the first place. They are so simple and effective that they not only prevent tooth decay, they create the environment for it to recover once it has started.

The key is to work with your dentist, have your teeth thoroughly examined and put these simple tooth repairing steps into action. 

There is no need to wait for technology to do what we can do for ourselves right now.  

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