What Causes Cavities?

In Dental Health by Dr. Mathew Palmer

If you have had an advanced cavity, you probably knew it. These painful holes in your tooth enamel, otherwise known as tooth decay or caries, can cause an undeniable toothache and sensitivity. That pain might be throbbing throughout the day, or it might become acute when you bite down on something hard, drink a hot or cold liquid, or eat something sweet.

Although some cavities take this form, others are hidden points of damage. These tiny holes might go undetected, not causing any pain, and threatening to grow. Regular visits to the dentist are the best way to keep track of the development of cavities so that you don’t let them ever get to the point of pain. In order to avoid this form of tooth decay, what can you do?

The following causes of cavities are each linked to a preventative tactic, so you can develop some healthy habits to keep cavities from forming in the first place.

Common Causes

The general cause of cavities is plaque buildup. Plaque is a substance formed from bacteria, saliva, acid, and food particles. If plaque remains on the surface of the tooth for too long, it is essentially trapping damaging substances against the tooth enamel, eating away at the protective barrier between the mouth and the inner tooth.

The most important habit to cultivate when it comes to plaque buildup is a regular brushing and flossing regimen. It will come as no surprise, but brushing your teeth and flossing between them twice a day is the best way to prevent the corrosive substances within plaque from having an opportunity to eat away at enamel. When you brush, be sure to follow the procedure explained to you by your dentist or dental hygienist, using ample time to get all that residue off the surface of the tooth.

Cavity Risk Factors

Within the general category of plaque buildup, several particular habits and substances can put you at higher risk for developing cavities. Certain processed drinks and foods are prone to sticking to your teeth for a long time, and that list includes soda, ice cream, honey, dried fruit, cake, cookies, and hard candy.

You will notice a common link between the items on that list: sugar and sweeteners. Sugars are a main culprit of causing cavities, particularly when they are part of the plaque that covers the tooth. Limiting your consumption of sugar can be a good health practice in other areas, as well. Frequent eating or sipping can be another way to cause cavities. Rather than eating a meal and allowing the mouth to have time away from new food and beverage substances, those who are constantly nibbling are also introducing new plaque formation throughout the day. Sipping on sugary drinks is one of the worst habits when it comes to plaque buildup, so try to break the habit or get serious about brushing and flossing throughout the day.

Other causes of cavities have to do with the chemical composition of the mouth and teeth. Fluoride has been shown to be very helpful in preventing cavities, and those who do not get enough of this chemical compound can be at higher risk, particularly in early life when the enamel is forming.

Dry mouth is a condition in which the mouth does not produce enough saliva, and saliva is a crucial element of diluting and sweeping away bacteria, acid, and sugary substances in plaque. This condition can be associated with some medications, so be sure to talk with your doctor if you are properly hydrated yet continue to experience dry mouth. Finally, eating disorders can be associated with cavity creation, particularly when acid is introduced into the mouth. Acid reflux disease has the same effect by introducing compounds that can eat away at the tooth enamel.

Cavity Treatment

If you already have cavities, some of the tiniest ones can be monitored for growth, but serious cavities will need fillings. By removing the decaying material from the tooth and then replacing it with a durable substance such as gold, silver, or a composite resin, you can restore a protective layer between your mouth and the sensitive nerves of the inner tooth.At Palmer Dental, our team of specialists can provide the right guidance about which cavities are in need of fillings in order to prevent the pain that comes when they are left to grow unchecked. Contact us today for an appointment!