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By the time most of us see the dentists about cavities, they are big, gaping, black, brown, or yellow holes in our teeth that can cause pain when we eat. These cavities (also known as caries) have to be drilled out and filled with amalgam. Getting a cavity filled can be more than a little unpleasant.

In their very earliest stages, however, cavities don't have to be treated with a dentist's drill. A nascent microcavity can still be repaired without removing surrounding enamel, without drilling, and without pain, if it is treated in time.

Before tooth decay causes cavities, it demineralizes the surface of the tooth. This process produces off-white, not yellow or brown of black, discoloration in patches on the teeth. A microcavity can be "patched," rather than filled, covered over with minerals from saliva chemically joined to the surface of the tooth.

Your dentist can do this kind of bonding, but sometimes so can you. The crystalline chemical that makes your teeth strong is hydroxyapatite. It's a combination of calcium and phosphate.

When you use a toothpaste (Crest Pro, Oral-B Pro-Expert) containing the ingredient stannous fluoride (in considerably higher concentration than the fluoride found in some treated drinking water), it makes a different chemical out of the calcium in your saliva. This chemical is fluroapatite. It is also a crystal that makes the enamel strong, but it is even more resistant than hydroxyapatite against the acids released by tooth decay bacteria and found in food.

The natural solution for "slight" decay can be as simple as using a fluoride toothpaste.

If you wait until the enamel has turned darker and shows an obvious cavity, it won't work, but it's a good treatment for the first signs of a cavity.

In very rare cases, fluoride toothpastes can cause allergies. If this happens, don't use them. Even if you don't use a fluoride toothpaste, you can at least slow down the progress of a cavity by:

  • Not drinking soft drinks that contain phosphoric acid (which is nearly all of them), coffee, tea, or lemonade, or, if you do, being very careful to drink water to rinse out your mouth when you do. This doesn't mean you have to gargle in front of other people every time you drink a Diet Coke or something similar. It's enough to drink water after you drink an acidic drink.
  • Not eating sugary foods, especially sticky sugary foods (raisins, dates, taffy, fudge, caramel). Be sure to brush after eating these foods, even if you choose not to use a fluoride toothpaste.
  • Making sure to brush after you eat yogurt. Certain strains of Streptococcus bacteria cause tooth decay, but so do Lactobacillus, the otherwise friendly, probiotic bacteria in yogurt.

Natural treatment of cavities without pain and even without seeing a dentist is possible if you start soon enough.

To make sure you get treatment for cavities even in places you can't see, however, schedule an appointment with your dentist twice a year.

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