What causes cavities: All you need to know for prevention and cure

what causes cavities

A cavity is a permanently damaged area on the hard surface of your teeth that develop into tiny holes or openings. Cavities are also known as dental caries or called tooth decay. But what causes cavities?

  1. bacteria in your mouth
  2. frequent snacking
  3. Sipping sugary food and drinks and not cleaning your teeth well.

Cavities – also known as tooth decay, are among the world’s most common health problems. This problem is not only for children but also for teenagers and older adults. This tooth decay can lead to severe toothache, infection, and tooth loss. Younger children have a risk of early childhood tooth decay known as baby bottle tooth decay, which is serious in babies.

Dental cavity or decay is the destruction of a tooth when the teeth are destroyed completely. The acid is made by decay-causing bacteria in your mouth that attack the tooth’s surface or enamel. This can lead to a small depression in a tooth called a tooth cavity.


When decay-causing bacterial infection comes into contact with sugary, starchy foods, and drinks, they form acid. This can lead to sharp pain due to the attack of acid on the tooth enamel. Acid attacks of bacteria will result in the loss of minerals in the enamel. As time passes formation of plaque and cavities starts, thereby weakening and destroying the enamel.

Plaque is the sticky layer of bacteria that forms on teeth. When a person eats sugary foods and drinks or starchy foods and drinks, the bacteria in the plaque release harmful acids which attack tooth enamel. Plaque or tooth decay can be caused to permanent teeth as well as temporary teeth.

Plaque is a combination of:

  • Bacteria
  • saliva
  • Acid
  • Food particles

Some of the people in society are at higher risk factors. Risk factors include:

  • Eating disorders
  • Not getting enough fluoride
  • Dry mouth
  • Too many sugary foods or acidic food particles
  • Acid reflux disease
  • A poor oral health
  • Receding gums

Cavities develop more often on the back teeth. These teeth have grooves and holes that can trap food particles. These teeth are harder to reach when brushing and flossing.

Symptoms and Signs

Tooth decay symptoms can vary depending on the damage caused to the tooth. Some people in the early stages of the tooth decay process may feel no symptoms. According to the research of the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR). However, as tooth decay advances, a person may suffer from the following:

Tooth pain
by Bernard Odoms/Flickr.Copyright2022

  • tooth sensitivity to sugary, hot, or cold foods and drinks
  • constant tooth pain or mouth pain
  • bad breath
  • loose fillings
  • white or dark spots on the teeth
  • cavities in teeth
  • food frequently trapped in teeth
  • difficulty biting certain foods
  • Bleeding gums or gum diseases
  • Facial swelling
  • Redness around or inside the mouth
  • Tooth sensitivity to hot or cold visible holes


A regular dental checkup can identify cavities. You will also be safe from any other dental problems that might creep up. If a cavity is cured before it starts causing pain, you probably won’t need extensive treatment.

by Jimmie E. Ott/Flickr.Copyright2022

Basically, the treatment of cavities depends on how severe the tooth decay is and the particular situation of the one’s tooth. There are multiple treatments including-

Fluoride treatments

If your cavities format very early stages. Fluoride treatments may help to restore your tooth’s enamel and can sometimes reverse a cavity. Professional fluoride treatment contains more fluoride. The amount found in tap water, fluoride toothpaste and mouth rinses are less. Fluoride treatments may be different types of solutions like liquid, gel, foam, or varnish that run onto your teeth or are placed in a small tray that fits over your teeth.

Dental Fillings

When tooth decay has progressed beyond the earliest stage, the main treatment is fillings also called restoration or dental fillings. These filings are made up of various materials. Tooth-colored composite resins, porcelain, or dental amalgam is a combination of several materials.


There is a custom-made fitted covering that replaces your tooth’s entire natural crowns. May be made up of gold, high strength porcelain fused to metal or other materials. When the tooth decay is extensive or weakened teeth.

Root canals

When tooth decay reaches, the inner material of your tooth, you may need a root canal. A root canal can repair and save a damaged or decayed tooth instead of completely removing the tooth. The pulp which is diseased removed is removed. After that, the pulp is replaced with a filling. Medication is put into the root canal to clear the infection.

Tooth extraction

When the tooth is severely decayed that it can’t be restored and must be removed. Then the last option is to extract the tooth. Tooth pulled can leave the space or gap that allows your other teeth to shift. If it is possible get a bridge or a dental implant to replace the missing tooth.

Dealing with pain

Cavities and tooth decay can cause a lot of pain and discomfort. To deal with sharp pain and discomfort temporarily:

  • Keep up your oral hygiene routine – Continue to brush your teeth and clean all parts of your mouth.
  • Try over-the-counter pain relievers (OTC) – Ask your doctor if you can use OTC anesthetics.
  • Keep track of what you eat – Stay away from extreme hot or cold foods when eating or drinking.


Tooth decay is a common dental problem. One can reduce your risk by doing the following-

  • Brush your teeth at least twice per day with fluoride toothpaste.
  • Limit snacking between meals.
  • Consider getting dental sealants on your teeth.
  • Eat fewer acidic sugary foods like sweets, candy, juice, soda, and refined carbohydrates.
  • Floss at least once daily.

dental checkup
by Michael Sardina/Flickr.Copyright2022

There are some of the foods that can help prevent tooth decay:

  • Water with fluoride
  • Calcium-rich food
  • Xylitol sugarless chewing gum
  • Unsweetened black or green tea
  • Fiber-rich fruits and vegetables

Also, don’t forget to visit your dentist regularly at least twice per year for regular teeth cleanings. This allows you to get treatment for problem for any tooth-related problems and it will also prevent future dental problems. All these precautions help to prevent cavities in the tooth.

Food causes tooth decay

Tooth decay is the most common chronic illness faced by children aged six to nineteen. These cavities should be controlled and should be diagnosed. This can lead to complications like jaw pain, problems in chewing, and tooth abscesses. If you don’t floss or brush, there is a good chance you might lose your teeth. Tartar is a disease above the gum line that can lead to gingivitis, which is an early form of gum disease.

Some worst food for teeth, that causes tooth decay-

sour candy
by kbxxus/Flickr.Copyright2022

  • Sour candies – Candy causes tooth decay and sour candy contains more and different kinds of acids that are tougher on your teeth.
  • Bread – When you chew bread, your saliva breaks down the starchy foods into sugary foods. Then it gets transformed into a gummy paste-like substance, the breadstick to the crevices between the teeth.
  • Alcohol – When you drink, dry mouth is there which lacks saliva, which we need to keep our teeth healthy. Saliva prevents cavities and food from sticking to our teeth and washes away the food particles.
  • Carbonated Drinks – Carbonated sodas enable plaque to produce more acid to attack tooth enamel. If you sip soda all day, you are essentially coating your teeth in acid.
  • Ice – Chewing surfaces which is hard like ice can damage enamel and make you susceptible to dental problems.
  • Citrus – Consuming too many fruits and packed food which contains vitamin C. Acid content that is present in the food will lead to enamel erosion. This might accelerate tooth decay.
  • Potato chips – Potato contains starch that is present in potato chips. This starch will become sugar that can be trapped in and between the teeth. This feeds the bacteria in the plaque.
  • Dried fruits – The dried fruits get stuck and cling to the teeth and their cervices, leaving behind lots of sugar. After eating make sure you rinse your mouth with water and brush and floss after.

Rather than eating dried fruits, eat fresh fruits which are more beneficial for your health as well as for your teeth.

dried fruits
by Marco Verch Professional Photographer’s photostream/Flickr./original photolicense

This type of food catches or develops cavities easily. Hence, try to monitor what you eat and try to make smart food choices that increase saliva flow and saliva production.

Cavity reaches dentin

Now, first of all, what is dentin in a tooth? A tooth is made up of four tissues that make up a tooth. One of the four tissue is called dentin. Enamel, cementum, and pulp are the other three. While dentin is strong, it isn’t as solid as enamel.

But when the tooth has eroded the enamel and is starting to erode the dentin underneath. For any kind of pain in your tooth get to the dentist as quickly as possible. Once the cavity reaches the dentin, it will start to decay more rapidly.

Mostly back teeth catch cavities very easily. The cavities start from the outermost layer to the middle layer and then to the tooth root. As it reaches the root then it starts causing root decay. Now, this is a medical condition where we have to treat the particular cavity tooth with certain treatments as listed above.

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While at times contributed by guest authors, our content is medically reviewed periodically by professionals for accuracy and relevance. We pride ourselves on our high-quality content and strive towards offering expertise while being authoritative. Our reviewers include doctors, nurses, mental health professionals, and even medical students. 

Do note that any information found on the site does not constitute legal or medical advice. Should you face health issues, please visit your doctor to get yourself diagnosed. Icy Health offers expert opinions and advice for informational purposes only. This is not a substitute for professional medical advice.


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