What Causes Cavities?

by | Jul 27, 2021 | Blog Posts

What Causes Cavities?

Studies indicate that over 90% of U.S. adults aged 20-64 have experienced tooth decay, otherwise known as cavities. 1 Cavities are the decay and destruction of a tooth’s enamel, which appear as small holes on the smooth surface, root, or pit and fissure of a tooth. But what causes cavities? Read on to learn more about what causes cavities and how you can prevent future decay from occurring.

What Causes Cavities?

The root cause of cavities is excess plaque and tartar buildup on the teeth. This is because plaque possesses bacteria that contribute to the erosion and damage of the hard enamel of the teeth. When left untreated, this erosion can reach the inner layers of the dentin and pulp of a tooth and cause more irritation and unpleasant symptoms. 2

Some of the most common causes for cavities include:

  • Insufficient Oral Hygiene: Without proper brushing and flossing, the food particles and bacteria that would’ve been brushed away stay on the teeth, where plaque starts to form.
  • Medications: Any medications that cause dry mouth and decreased saliva increase the chance of change in cavity development. This includes antihistamines, pain medications, and antidepressants.
  • Certain Medical Conditions: Eating disorders like bulimia or medical conditions causing acid reflux can cause cavities since the harsh acids from the stomach contribute to enamel erosion and damage.
  • Sugary Food and Drink: Sugars and other carbohydrates allow oral bacteria to create harmful acids that erode the teeth. In fact, one study found that individuals drinking 1-2 sugary drinks a day had a 31% increased risk for cavities. 3

5 Tips For Preventing Unnecessary Cavities

Since most causes for cavities directly relate to your lifestyle behaviors, there are various simple practices to implement that significantly reduce the risk for a cavity. Let’s explore 5 of the best cavity busting tactics:

#1: Cut Back On Specific Foods

While most foods are fine in moderation, cutting back acidic or sugary snacks and beverages will likely aid cavity prevention. Some of these popular foods and beverages to limit or avoid include:

  • Sticky candy and snacks
  • Fruit juice
  • Soda
  • Cakes and pastries
  • Gum with sugar
  • Milk and ice cream

#2: Don’t Eat Before Bedtime

While there’s nothing wrong with grabbing a late-night snack before bed, it is crucial to always brush your teeth before going to sleep. Sleeping for hours with food sitting on the teeth uninterrupted is a breeding ground for tooth-decaying bacteria.

#3: Maintain Proper Oral Hygiene

Always brush and floss twice a day to ensure that food and bacteria aren’t left on or between your teeth. It never hurts to integrate bacteria-killing mouthwash or a professional fluoride treatment into your oral hygiene routine as well.

#4: Stay Hydrated

Drinking ample amounts of water throughout the day is a surefire way to flush away unwanted food and beverage particles. Plus, most tap water contains small traces of fluoride, which helps prevent tooth decay.

#5: Get Professional Dental Care

A shocking one-fourth of adults aged 20 to 64 have untreated tooth decay, 4 of which can be avoided with regular dental check-up appointments. Regular dental visits ensure that your teeth are professionally cleaned, polished, and screened for cavities and other oral health concerns for the earliest detection possible.

Work With Empire Dental Care For The Best Cavity Treatment

If you find yourself with a cavity, it is crucial to work with a trusted dentist to receive the proper treatment plan. Whether it’s for a cavity filling or root canal, professionals at Empire Dental Care can help with all of your preventative, cosmetic, and general dental needs. For high-quality dental care with a gentle touch, contact our Webster, NY office today. 585-671-1650



[1] https://www.nidcr.nih.gov/research/data-statistics/dental-caries/adults

[2] https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/cavities/symptoms-causes/syc-20352892

[3]  https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24813370/



Dr. Cohen has been practicing dentistry in private and public settings for over 10 years, completing her DMD degree in 2010 at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel. Committed to providing dental care of the highest level, Dr. Cohen relocated to Rochester in 2016 to pursue advanced dental trainings at the Dental Urgent Care Fellowship at The University of Rochester, Eastman Institute for Oral Health, graduating in 2017, and the AEGD Residency program in 2019. She recently completed an additional advanced General Practice Residency program at St. Peter’s Hospital in Albany NY. This summer she moved back to Rochester with her husband Kevin, a native Rochesterian, to be closer to family. Throughout her career and personal life, Dr. Cohen has shown her genuine compassion and care to people and patients from all walks of life. She volunteered in underserved areas, practiced in clinics for patients with complex special needs, and treated medically compromised patients among others. She also taught and mentored other dentists and students helping them achieve their professional and personal goals. Most of all, Dr. Cohen’s warm personality and love of people create a welcoming, comfortable feeling for both patients and staff.