Dentist examining the root of a tooth for a cavity.

How Long Does it Take For a Cavity to Form?  

There is a very lengthy process involved with the formation of a cavity. Learn more about the process that occurs and discover things you can do to prevent a cavity from forming.

How Long Does it Take for a Cavity to Form?

It may seem like cavities practically form overnight, but they don’t.  How long does it take for a cavity to form?  It can take anywhere from six months to four or five years for a cavity to form.

Length of Time Varies from Cavity to Cavity

No two cavities are alike when it comes to how long it takes for them to form. A person can have a cavity in one tooth that took seven months to form, and another cavity in another tooth that formed over three years.

The length of time it takes for a cavity to form varies on a case by case basis because the conditions of your mouth can vary daily; even from the section of the mouth. The varying conditions means cavities can start to form and then not have the right conditions to continue to progress. This doesn’t mean they go away, it just means they are slower to form.

Factors That Increase or Decrease the Length of Time it Takes a Cavity to Form

All types of factors can greatly influence the length of time it takes for a cavity to form. Common factors that can increase or decrease the speed in which a cavity forms include:

  • Acid levels – cavities will start to form when acid levels in the mouth increase
  • The number of acid attacks – teeth are extremely strong. However, if a tooth is subjected to multiple small acid attacks, eventually a cavity will form
  • Where the cavity is forming – enamel is stronger and contains more minerals, which means it will take longer to form than a cavity that is forming in the dentin
  • The thickness of the enamel – enamel is thinner near the gum line which means that cavities form quicker near the gums than they do on the tops of teeth
  • Quality of the tooth enamel – enamel that contains lots of minerals will take longer to get a cavity than enamel that has fewer minerals

Tooth Damage can be Reversed with Remineralization

It may seem like once the conditions are right for a cavity to start forming, that the process just progresses until a full cavity is created. However, the cavity formation process isn’t a set process. In fact, conditions can be right for a cavity to form and then a process known as remineralization can occur, which changes things.

Remineralization is a process that actually reverses or corrects damage to a tooth. When a cavity starts to form, it’s because either the enamel or dentin is starting to lose valuable minerals that protect the tooth. Remineralization helps put these valuable minerals back into the tooth.

Once these valuable minerals are re-deposited back into or onto the tooth, the tooth will start to repair and strengthen itself. Over time, the damage caused by the demineralization process is corrected and the conditions are no longer right for a cavity to form.

It is important to note that while remineralization can reverse some damage to a tooth’s surface and prevent some cavities, it can’t prevent all cavities. If the enamel or dentin is too damaged, the remineralization process will not be able to work, and the cavity will need to be filled.

Ways to Prevent the Formation of Cavities

There are some things you can do to prevent or slow down the formation of cavities. Some things you can do include:

  • Brush at least twice a day
  • Stay hydrated
  • Floss daily
  • Learn proper brushing and flossing techniques
  • Use fluoride toothpaste and mouthwash
  • Consume sugary or acidic foods in moderation
  • Schedule a professional dental cleaning and checkup every four to six months
  • Follow through with all recommended dental treatment

Is it time for a dental checkup or a professional cleaning? Call Artistic Touch Dentistry today to schedule an appointment for a routine dental cleaning and professional exam.