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Could a cavity in a human tooth "heal over" or possibly fill back in?

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

The answer is a simple no. Cavities in the teeth caused by dental decay cannot heal. Enamel which is affected by dental decay cannot heal as they are fully formed at the time of eruption and then on only deteriorates. The deeper part of the tooth which has dentin cannot heal the cavity formation, however it can produce a protective barrier between the advancing cavity front and the pulp inside. The cementum the third mineralised tissue of the tooth cannot heal a decay cavity. Its main function is to attach the tooth to the bony socket through the periodontal fibres.

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I see you're an oral pathologist, so your answer has merit. However, can we improve the answer with some explanation or reason to believe the things you say are true, other than just your testimony? I'm not suggesting what you're saying is false, I just want to be 100% convinced. I do appreciate your answer and hope you're not offended by my request. How do we know enamel cannot heal because it was formed at the time of eruption? Why can't dentin heal cavity formation? How does dentin produce a protective barrier? Thank you! – Randy Aug 21 '13 at 4:08
Enamel is not formed at the time of eruption, it is formed before eruption. Enamel is secreted as an organic matrix which subsequently gets mineralised by cells called ameloblasts from inside out. Enamel formation is completed before tooth eruption. After enamel formation the ameloblasts regress and are completely lost after eruption. So no further enamel formation is possible if there are no ameloblasts. Hence once a cavity is formed in the enamel it cannot get filled up with enamel. – Ram Manohar M Aug 22 '13 at 5:34
Where as dentin forming cells are retained live on the pulpal side. So reparative dentin can form on the pulpal side and not on the cavity side to fill it up. These are well established facts which can be found in any standard book on Oral and dental histology and Oral Pathology. Feel free to ask further clarification if required. – Ram Manohar M Aug 22 '13 at 5:35
That makes sense. Thanks so much! I've seen reports of decayed enamel before eruption. Is there truth to this? If so, how does enamel decay before exposed to food acids? – Randy Aug 22 '13 at 5:57
Teeth completely embeded in tissue cannot undergo decay as they are not exposed to plaque. However they can undergo a process called resorption under some circumstances. Rosorption of teeth are by cells called odontoclasts. In xrays these partially resorbed teeth may appear as decayed in xrays. If you can link the reports you have seen I can look at them and comment on it. – Ram Manohar M Aug 22 '13 at 6:46

Yes, it can be done to a certain degree.

Cementum is capable of repairing itself to a limited degree and is not resorbed under normal conditions. Some root resorption of the apical portion of the root may occur, however, if orthodontic pressures are excessive and movement is too fast. Some experts also agree on a third type of cementum, afibrillar cementum, which sometimes extends onto the enamel of the tooth.

Cementum is produced by cells called cementoblasts.

more here:

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Thank you Derfder and Rory. – Randy Jun 25 '13 at 1:19
The answer is not relevant as the question is on healing of a cavity. Root caries affect the cementum first which is only few microns thick and does not heal by itself since the cells capable of formation is no longer in relation to the caries cavity. The reference quouted does not substantiate the healing of a cavity involving cementum. Healing of a resorption site of cementum is totally diffierent and is not applicable here. – Ram Manohar M Sep 6 '13 at 17:41

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