How Long Does It Take for a Cavity to Form?

Dr Perlman pointing at a dental image

If you hear at your next checkup that you have a cavity that needs to be treated with a filling, you may wonder how that cavity developed. You probably already know that severe tooth decay doesn’t just appear overnight. But how do cavities form? And is there anything you can do to prevent them? Read on to learn how you can reduce your risk of getting a cavity!

Cavity Formation

Having a cavity means your teeth have permanent weakening and tiny holes that must be treated by a dentist. The key culprit behind tooth decay is the bacterial production of damaging acid that slowly dissolves your tooth enamel, the protective coating on the surface of your teeth. When you eat, and especially when you eat foods high in sugar and starch, you feed the bad bacteria in your mouth. This bacteria then produces an acidic waste byproduct, multiples, and accumulates into a sticky film called plaque that can also lead to gum irritation, bad breath, and tooth discoloration.

Gradual Growth

Plaque needs to be brushed, flossed, rinsed, and washed away every day with a proper dental hygiene routine. The more plaque you allow to accumulate and cling to the surface of your teeth, the more of that acid you’ll have eating away at your precious enamel. But the time it takes for an individual cavity to form will vary widely, anywhere from months to years. And although very severe cavities can cause a toothache, you most likely won’t even realize you have a cavity until we identify it at your biannual dental examination!

Defeating Decay

Fortunately, there are steps you can start taking today to avoid decay and even reverse early-stage tooth decay:

  1. A healthier diet will cut down on the amount of plaque that forms on your teeth. Limit your consumption of processed foods and drinks high in sugar, including candy, caramel, soda, citrus-based sparkling water with sugar, chips, white bread, and fast food. Watch out for foods marketed as healthy but that have sugar as their main ingredient, such as many store-bought yogurts and breakfast cereals.
  2. That’s not to say that you can’t have a sweet treat here and there, but do so in moderation.
  3. Depending on the amount of acid in a meal, your enamel can temporarily soften. So avoid brushing your teeth for 30-60 minutes after eating to give your tooth enamel time to re-harden and settle.
  4. Be sure to drink plenty of water throughout your day!
  5. If your jaw is not painful and does not pop, chew sugar-free gum for at least 20 minutes after eating to help promote saliva production and wash away food particles from your teeth.
  6. Gently brush your teeth twice a day for two minutes each time using a soft-bristled toothbrush and floss at least once a day to clean plaque from all the nooks and crannies in your smile.
  7. Come visit us here at Elevate Smile Design every six months for a professional cleaning and checkup! We look forward to helping you have a healthy mouth and a beautiful smile.

We can give you more tips to strengthen your teeth and keep them cavity-free!

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