Can Cavities Really Be Healed?

In a word…Yes! Dentists use the term “arrested” to describe dental caries in which the decay process has stopped and the decay is no longer active.  In lay terms, arrested can be considered the same as healed.

The arrest and healing of tooth decay has been described many times in leading dental text books and  journals.

A few examples (to paraphrase):

Teeth containing large cavities, which ordinarily would have an area of softened dentin surrounding the zone of destruction, were found instead to be very dense.  Open cavities showed no signs of progress months after they were first observed.

Dr J.D. Boyd, MD and Dr. C.L. Drain, DDS, 1928

In active decay the tissue for some distance below the surface is more or less depleted in minerals and feels “soft” to the dental probe.  In early stages of arrest the surface zone may feel rough or leathery.  In the next stage the surface is found to be hard but rough, and later the irregularities may be removed by mechanical abrasion.  This process may take months or years, but eventually the surface may become quite hard, smooth and polished, but active decay may have stopped long before this stage is reached.

Dr May Mellanby, DSc, 1933

One of the most severe tests of a nutritional program, accordingly, is the test of its power to check tooth decay completely, even without fillings.  If diet has been sufficiently improved, bacterial growth will not only be inhibited, but the leathery decayed dentin will become mineralized from the saliva by a process similar to petrification. When scraped with a steel instrument it frequently takes on a density like very hard wood and occasionally takes even a glassy surface.

Dr W.A. Price, DDS, 1934

From "Essentials of Dental Caries", Dr Edwina Kidd, 3rd Ed, 2005.

To the left is an example of an arrested cavity.  Despite the decay having advanced well into dentin, the exposed dentin was hard and shiny. The tooth had been in this state for at least 10 years.

This example is admittedly not very attractive (to say the least), but does show that tooth decay can heal even when it has advanced beyond the enamel and well into the dentin.

Note that while the decay has been arrested, the cavity does not infill.

From "Oral Histology: Development, structure and function", Dr A.R. Ten Cate, 2nd Ed., 1985. (click for larger image)

When a tooth is attacked by decay or suffers an injury such as a chip, if nutrition is good, it responds by depositing what is referred to today as reparative or tertiary dentin.  (In Dr Mellanby’s time it was called secondary dentin).  The reparative dentin forms only in the area affected by decay or injury, and is an attempt by the tooth to protect the pulp.

As healing progresses, the decayed and exposed dentin can become remineralized, ultimately forming a hard, dense, glassy surface.

In her careful experiments, Dr May Mellanby demonstrated that the same nutritional conditions that support development of strong, well mineralized teeth, also support the arrest of dental decay, development of reparative dentin and tooth remineralization.  That is, optimal supplementation of vitamin D, together with adequate calcium and phosphorus and a calcifying diet with restricted intake of sugar and cereal grains. Dr Weston Price found even better results when vitamin K2 was also supplemented.

From Dr May Mellanby

This is an example of a healed tooth viewed under the microscope after treatment with the calcifying diet rich in vitamin D, calcium and phosphorus.  The decay has been fully arrested. There is a thick layer of well-calcified reparative dentin (2D) protecting the pulp, and the surface is hard and smooth with no decay.

When tooth decay is active, the goal of nutritional supplements and diet is to create the optimal dietary and nutritional environment that harnesses the body’s defenses and supports the natural arrest of the decay and remineralization of the affected areas.  In other words, to create the conditions that allow teeth to heal…naturally and without dental intervention.

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7 Responses to Can Cavities Really Be Healed?

  1. Jim says:

    Thanks for the very informative articles. I clicked on your name in your comment on Stephan’s blog.

    I have a previously filled molar which has cracked and is of course sensitive to heat, cold, and pressure. The dentist has already ground it down and fitted a temporary crown. This has not changed the sensitivities, so she says the next step is either root canal and crown, or extraction. Now I wish I had not gone ahead with the prep for a crown, but instead had avoided exposing it to heat, cold and pressure until it had time to heal.

    Am I correct in my assessment?

    • Jim

      The research by Mellanby’s, Weston Price and others indicates that when the diet is rich in vitamins D/K2, calcium and phosphorus teeth do have a remarkable ability to arrest decay and heal injury. See the photo in the post here that shows arrest of advanced decay well into the dentin. It would seem that as long as the pulp remains healthy, there is the potential for laying down of reparative dentin and “healing” of your tooth. That may still be an option for you.

      Clearly we are not in the position to give dental advice. However, if you are not suffering undue discomfort and it is possible for you to delay “the next step”, you could try and modify your diet and/or supplement with D/K2/Ca, reduce phytate intake etc, to support formation of reparative dentin. And maybe print out some of May Mellanby’s research and give to your dentist.

      Good luck and let us know how you make out.

      Rob

  2. Jim says:

    Hi Rob,

    Thanks for the reply. The temporary crown broke, so I had it replaced because the remaining interior tooth material was *extremely* sensitive and I’ll have to go ahead with a more permanent crown for that reason.

    I do supplement D/K2/Mg/Ca and don’t eat phytate sources very often, so I’m thinking that crack will be ‘healed’.

    I already thought about printing some of MM’s research and taking it to the dentist, but it conflicts so strongly with the premises on which her business rests, that I figured she’d be underwhelmed.

    Thanks again.
    Jim

  3. Michael says:

    I had been diagnosed with a progressed tooth decay on a bottom molar and the suggestion was root canal, and crown, or extraction. Meaning, $1,200! I refused temporarily to treat it and was careful.

    I decided not to chew on that side for a year nearly and the situation was stable. Although I was taking daily multivitamins my situation did not improve. It rather deteriorated after a year and a half as I saw additional decays developing on that tooth, specifically two dark holes going straight down. At that point I read about alternative healing options. If your body can heal, why not your teeth?

    I read about the effects of Vitamin D3 on strengthening bones, teeth, immune system and its synergistic action with Vitamin K. I have been taking so far multivitamins every morning (which includes 400IU D3 and 25mcg K) and one tablet of D3 (1000 IU) in the evening. So total 1400 IUs of D3 every day along with all the rest in daily recommended values.

    I can make a statement that after 10-11 days of regular intake of extra vitamin D3 the bigger of two holes I had on my molar has formed a strong glassy layer which I suspect is enamel and underneath is probably some secondary dentin. Cavities can heal.

    This is a fact, an observation, a recorded phenomenon that I experienced and have no intention of lying to you or benefit to sell you anything. I am a biology researcher and this has astounded me. I am not sure if this D3 approach is something universal for all cavities and people (age, race, sex etc) but I know now that cavities can be healed and holes filled (reminerilized with enamel).

    I would recommend everyone to try it. The upper safe levels of daily intake of D3 for adults is between 2,000 IUs (conservative estimate) and 10,000 IU (official estimate).

  4. Pete says:

    Did Melanby use D2 or D3? Was it synthetic or isolated from a food source?

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