It’s Not a Cavity . . . Yet

This post was written by William J. Moorhead, DMD on October 7, 2008
Posted Under: General Dentistry, Prevention

You’re seeing commercials on television that talk about a product’s ability to reverse cavities. So can these products really work? And what works best?

First a little bit of background. A tooth actually develops a “cavity” when bacteria eats through the outer enamel layer of the tooth and gets into the softer dentin layer that lies below the enamel.

In your mouth, these demineralized areas, or “pre-cavities” look like opaque white or brown spots, as shown in the picture below.

We’ve known for several years that you can use fluoride to reverse a pre-cavity, but it requires repeated regular applications of fluoride to accomplish this reversal. Two of the best ways to accomplish this are with application of fluoride varnishes or the daily use of custom fluoride trays at home.

Fluoride varnish is a highly concentrated temporary dose of fluoride. The varnish holds fluoride close to the tooth surface for a longer period of time than other concentrated fluoride products. The varnish, usually tooth colored, is applied by a dental professional. When the varnish is used repeatedly, it can actually reverse the pre-cavity by remineralizing the tooth.

Custom fluoride trays look similar to bleaching trays or whitening trays, but are specifically designed to cover your teeth completely at the gum line. They are fabricated to fit directly over your upper and lower teeth, and are used to hold a few drops of concentrated fluoride on the teeth. For about the cost of having one cavity filled, the custom fluoride trays provide you with a way of doing a professional strength fluoride treatment every day.

To use the custom fluoride trays, we recommend the following regimen:

  1. Brush and floss sometime in the evening, close enough to bedtime that you won’t be eating again.
  2. Apply 6-8 drops of prescription strength fluoride gel (5000 ppm fluoride), such as Prevident or Fluoridex, to both the upper and lower trays.
  3. Place the trays over your teeth, seating them completely, and wear the trays for 5-10 minutes. The longer the dose, the more effective the product, and the better the results.
  4. Remove the trays, rinse your mouth out with water, spit, and go to bed without eating. If you live in an area that does not have fluoride in the drinking water, you do not need to wash the excess fluoride out of your mouth. In this case, spit out the excess fluoride and go to bed without eating anything. This leaves a thin layer of fluoride on the teeth all night.
  5. After removing the trays, wash them out with water and place them in your case to let them drain out and dry before the next use.

There are some newer products that are even more effective at reversing pre-cavities. A product called MI Paste can reverse the pre-cavities and often reverse the opaque white spot caused by the pre-cavity. MI Paste works by releasing calcium and phosphate ions into your tooth enamel. It can be brushed on, or can be worn in the custom fluoride trays already mentioned.

There are many effective tools for fighting cavities before they start. Give us a call today so that we can help give you the smile you want.

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