Many people wonder what causes cavities; they want to know how to avoid this common problem that leads to discomfort, pain and tooth loss. Cavities result from tooth decay, which is the destruction of tooth structure and can affect both the enamel (the hard, outer layer of the tooth) and the dentin layer of the tooth.

How Does Tooth Decay Occur?

Tooth decay occurs when foods containing carbohydrates (sugars and starches) are left on the teeth.  Bacteria that live in the mouth digest these foods and produce acids.  The bacteria, acid, food debris and saliva combine to form plaque, a sticky film that clings to the teeth.  The acids in plaque wear away the enamel and create holes in the teeth called cavities.

Once areas of enamel are worn away, the bacteria and acid can reach the next layer of the tooth, a softer substance called dentin.  The bacteria and acid then attack the inner tooth material (pulp) causing it to become irritated.  At this point, you will experience sensitivity, toothache and pain upon biting.

How To Prevent Tooth Decay

  • Brush your teeth at least twice a day with a fluoride-containing toothpaste. Preferably, brush after each meal and especially before going to bed.
  • Use a soft-bristle toothbrush for deep cleaning.
  • Clean between your teeth daily with dental floss or interdental cleaners such as the Oral-B Interdental Brush, Reach Stim-U-Dent, or Sulcabrush.
  • Rinse daily with a fluoride-containing mouthwash. Some rinses also have antiseptic ingredients to help kill bacteria that cause plaque.
  • Eat nutritious and balanced meals and limit snacks. Avoid carbohydrates and sugar such as sweetened beverages. If sticky foods are eaten, brush your teeth soon afterwards.
  • Drink fluoridated water. At least a pint of fluoridated water each day is needed to protect children from tooth decay.
  • Visit your dentist regularly for professional cleanings and oral exams.
  • Check with your dentist about the use of supplemental fluoride such as fluoride varnish, which strengthens the enamel.
  • Ask your dentist about dental sealants (a plastic protective coating applied to the chewing surfaces of your back teeth specifically molars to protect them from decay).

While tooth decay can have very serious consequences, practicing the above preventive measures can reduce the risk of it happening. In the event you need special treatment for cavity prevention, your dentist can advise you on what to do to maintain the health of your teeth. Contact us to schedule your visit today.


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