What Causes Cavities? Getting to the bottom of caries and how to prevent them

floss every day

This is probably a question you get a lot as a top Murfreesboro dentist, but What Causes Cavities?

The only thing that causes cavities is bacteria. However, there are things that we can do to help raise and lower the numbers of bacteria within our mouth. The biggest things that we can do are brushing and flossing to mechanically get the bacteria off of our teeth and keep what causes cavities at bay.

On the other end of the spectrum, we need to prevent bacteria by reducing whatever helps them to thrive. Sugar is the food that causes the bacteria to replicate or produce more. The other thing that can cause those numbers of bacteria to go up and create a perfect environment is an acidic environment which can happen with certain foods or drinks. The biggest player there is soft drinks that are very, very acidic. I always say that the acidity is like a beautiful, sunshiny day at the beach for the bacteria that cause decay. It creates the perfect environment for them to take over and cause a lot of damage to the teeth.

Are there any foods or drinks that we wouldn’t think of that might cause bacteria growth?

The main contributors are just things that are acidic – things like lemons. People who suck on lemons or citrus fruits have mouth environments that are more acidic. Things like wine and soft drinks are more acidic than others. There are some friendly foods as well. Helpful foods include those in the dairy group, because they actually tend to be a little bit more basic in nature, in pH. However, at the end of the day, even things like milk do have natural sugars that can help to cause decay. The best thing for teeth is actually just “plain-Jane,” good old tap water.

Is it true that the acid in some acidic drinks will actually eat the enamel away? Is that what causes cavities?

They can cause demineralization, or basically softening of the enamel, which makes it easier for the bacteria to penetrate into the tooth and cause cavities.


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