Are there natural ways to prevent cavities?
A buildup of food and bacteria form a film on the teeth. The term for this is plaque. If plaque is not removed, it will cause tooth decay.
Streptococcus mutans is a type of bacteria known to play a role in this decay.
Plaque builds up more easily in places such as:
- cracks, pits, and grooves in the teeth
- between the teeth
- around any fillings, particularly when they are chipped or broken
- close to the gum line
Over time, decay reaches the tooth's inner layer, called the dentin. At this point, a cavity starts to develop.
It is possible to prevent a cavity using home remedies when decay is at the pre-cavity stage. This is when decay has made holes in a tooth's enamel but has not yet reached the dentin.
Once the dentin decays and a cavity starts to form, professional treatment is necessary.
Can you get rid of cavities at home?
Cavities must be treated by a dentist.
However, several home remedies can strengthen tooth enamel at the pre-cavity stage. This process is known as remineralizing, and it prevents a cavity from forming.
Brushing the teeth twice daily with fluoride toothpaste is a tried-and-tested way to remineralize tooth enamel and prevent cavities.
Results from a 2014 study indicate that high-fluoride toothpaste significantly hardens enamel; giving teeth the protection they need to fight off decay.
However, some people prefer to use natural home remedies, rather than products containing fluoride. Some of these remedies include:
1. Oil pulling
Oil pulling originated in an ancient system of alternative medicine called Ayurveda. It involves swishing a tablespoon of sesame or coconut oil around in the mouth for a prescribed period, then spitting it out.
While some claims about oil pulling are not scientifically supported, research indicates that it can improve tooth health. A 2009 study found that using sesame oil in the pulling technique reduced the amount of plaque and bacteria to the same extent as mouthwash.
If oil pulling reduces plaque, this may help to remineralize enamel and prevent cavities. More studies are needed to confirm these effects.
2. Aloe vera
Aloe vera tooth gel may help to fight off bacteria that cause cavities. The antibacterial effect of this gel kills harmful bacteria in the mouth, according to a 2015 review.
While more research is needed, aloe vera gel may help to remineralize enamel at the pre-cavity stage.
3. Avoid phytic acid
Phytic acid may damage tooth enamel, and some believe that cutting it out of the diet can prevent tooth decay and cavities.
A study from the 1930s linked cavities to a diet high in phytic acid. However, there is a lack of recent evidence to support this.
A 2004 study found that phytic acid affected the mineral absorption from food. Some online articles use this study to draw further conclusions. They suggest that phytic acid may also break down minerals in enamel and lead to tooth decay. It is worth noting that the study involved fewer than 20 participants, however.
Phytic acid is most commonly found in cereals and legumes, including the following:
- kidney beans
- haricot beans
- pinto beans
- navy beans
- blackeye beans
- broad beans
More research is needed to determine whether phytic acid affects the minerals in tooth enamel.
4. Vitamin D
A 2013 review concluded that vitamin D supplements helped to reduce the incidence of dental cavities significantly.
The vitamin may have a mineralizing effect, which helps to strengthen tooth enamel.
5. Avoid sugary foods and drinks
Consumption of sugar is among the leading causes of cavities. Sugar mixes with bacteria in the mouth and forms an acid, which wears down tooth enamel.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommend that people prevent cavities by consuming fewer sugary foods and drinks, this 2016 review notes.
6. Eat licorice root
The antibacterial properties of licorice root may target the bacteria that cause cavities, according to a 2011 trial.
A small study from the same year suggested that sucking on a lollipop containing licorice extract might help to prevent cavities.
However, more research is needed before dentists can recommend these lollipops for cavity prevention.
7. Sugar-free gum
Results of a 2015 study indicate that chewing sugar-free gum after meals reduced levels of bacteria that damage enamel.
Having less of this bacteria may lead to stronger enamel that is better equipped to withstand decay.
When to see a dentist
Home remedies may reduce the risk of cavities or reverse damage to enamel in the pre-cavity stage.
These remedies should be used alongside dentist-recommended techniques, such as brushing, preferably with fluoride toothpaste.
Not all cavities cause pain, so it is essential to see a dentist regularly.
Dentists can detect cavities at an early stage and recommend preventive action. They may also provide a filling, crown, or other treatment for advanced cases of decay.