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If the start of a cavity is caught early enough—while it’s still an area of demineralization or a “white spot”—the tooth may be able to repair itself. The goal is to arrest the decay so that the natural remineralization cycle can take hold and repair the tooth. You and your dentist may be able to encourage this process. Following are some of the techniques your dentist might use at this stage.Fluoride application. Fluoride applied to the teeth in the form of a gel or varnish can boost remineralization. Most promising are the thick, lacquer-like varnishes that adhere to the tooth surface for about 12 hours. Your dentist may paint your teeth with this substance at your regular checkup.Chlorhexidine treatment. Applying a gel or varnish containing this powerful antiseptic agent can reduce the level of Streptococcus mutans in your mouth, slowing the demineralization process.Sealant application. Your dentist may apply a liquid plastic coating, which is usually hardened with UV light, to the biting surfaces of the molars to create a physical barrier against bacteria. Because 90 percent of decay among children occurs on these surfaces, the best time to apply sealants is shortly after the tooth first erupts. However, sealants can help at any point, even after there is evidence of decay. Applied correctly, sealants can last for several years.
Source: Dental Health for Adults: A Guide to Protecting Your Teeth and Gums. Copyright © by Harvard University. All rights reserved.
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