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  • Dr. Barry Yu


Nobody likes hearing they have a cavity at the dentist's office. Cavities can lead to fillings, higher dental bills, and longer visits. But did you know that if you catch tooth decay early, you can prevent or even reverse the process? In this post, we will discuss what happens inside our mouths, how cavities develop, and simple ways to prevent and reverse tooth decay. Remember, maintaining good oral health can save you time and money in the long run.

What Happens Inside Our Mouths?

Inside our mouths, there are various bacteria, some of which can lead to tooth decay. Tooth decay occurs when certain types of bacteria use sugars in our food to produce acids. Over time, these acids build up and create cavities in our teeth.

Big smile with no tooth decay

Tug of War: Bacteria and Sugars vs. Saliva and Fluoride

Thankfully, our bodies have natural defenses against these harmful bacteria and sugars. Saliva and fluoride, found in toothpaste and water, act as armor to protect against dental plaque – a film of bacteria and sugar. Saliva and fluoride also help repair the enamel that the bacteria's acid erodes.

How Does a Cavity Develop?

A cavity is a small hole in your tooth caused by the erosion of enamel, the outer layer of your teeth. When you consume sugary foods and drinks, acids produced by bacteria in plaque attack your enamel, creating these holes. While cavities are more common in children, anyone can develop them, especially as we age.

Big Smile with no tooth decay

Preventing and Reversing Tooth Decay:

1. Change Your Diet: Consume foods rich in calcium, such as greens and dairy, to strengthen your teeth. Avoid sugary foods and drinks like soda, juice, and candy to reduce plaque buildup.

2. Dietary Tips: Add vitamins and probiotics to your diet to promote saliva production and balance pH levels. Be mindful of pH values in food and drinks, as some, like coffee, can promote harmful bacteria.

3. Oral Care Routine: Brush your teeth at least twice a day, making sure to reach all surfaces. Floss daily to remove food particles and prevent gum bacteria growth. Use mouthwash to kill leftover bacteria.

Big smile with no tooth decay

4. Embrace Fluoride: Consider fluoride treatments to strengthen your teeth and prevent cavities. Fluoride is found in most city water supplies, toothpaste, and mouthwashes. You can also opt for fluoride supplements or gels for added protection.

5. Dental Sealants: For children and teens, consider dental sealants on molars to prevent cavities in hard-to-reach areas.

6. Regular Dental Checkups and X-Rays: Make annual dental appointments for professional cleanings and checkups. Routine X-rays are vital for detecting hidden dental issues early, ensuring comprehensive oral health care.

Big smile with no tooth decay

When Is It Too Late?

Unfortunately, cavities can become irreversible when acid from bacteria penetrates the enamel and reaches the dentin (the tooth's living tissue). At this stage, the cavity can grow larger, causing pain or sensitivity. You may require a filling, root canal, or extraction.

Conclusion: To maintain a healthy smile and avoid costly dental treatments, follow these simple tips to prevent or reverse tooth decay. Remember to visit your dentist regularly for checkups, including routine X-rays, and consult them if you experience tooth sensitivity or pain. Dental health is essential, and by following these guidelines, you can save both your teeth and your wallet. At Penn Pacific Dental Center in Singapore, we're here to support your journey towards a brighter, healthier smile. So, take these steps to heart and keep your oral health in check.

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About Authors


Graduated with honors from the University of California, Davis (U.S.A.), major in biochemistry and molecular biology, Dr. Yu has further obtained his dental degree (Doctor of Dental Medicine) from the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine (U.S.A.).  Dr. Yu is qualified to practice in the US, Singapore and Hong Kong, and has over 10 years of practicing experience in the US before starting both practices in Hong Kong and Singapore.


Dr. Chrissie Lam graduated from University of California, Berkeley (U.S.A.) with a bachelor degree in Nutritional Science before earning her doctorate degree in dentistry from University of the Pacific, Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry (U.S.A.). In her 10 years of practice she took care of her patients, both in U.S.A. and Singapore with her warm demeanor and excellent clinical skills. 

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