What causes tooth decay or cavities?
While many of us take excellent care of our teeth, cavities can still progress even with proper brushing and flossing. There are many factors that can contribute to the development of tooth decay, including:
- Poor oral hygiene
- Consuming sugary or acidic foods or drinks that fuel the bacteria that cause tooth decay
- Foods high in carbohydrates such as chips, bread, pasta, and crackers, as your saliva works to break these down into simple sugars.
- Dry mouth, because you need sufficient saliva to help flush foreign materials and hydrates your teeth
- Some medications
These factors can cause the normal bacteria that live in your mouth to produce acid that can break down the enamel of your teeth eventually leading to a cavity. Over time, untreated tooth decay can progress to an infection causing pain and possible loss of the tooth.
In the initial stages, cavities often go unnoticed. As decay progresses through the outer enamel layer of the tooth, it reaches the dentin and eventually the pulp of the tooth which is rich in nerves and blood vessels. Once decay reaches the pulp, the tooth is susceptible to infection and will require either a root canal or extraction to be fixed.