Have you ever wondered what causes cavities? A lot of substances are blamed, but it all really boils down to what’s going on in your mouth and/or how well you’re cleaning your teeth and caring for your gums:
The truth is, acid produced by bacteria in your mouth is the cause of cavities, says Kimberly A. Harms, DDS, an American Dental Association consumer advisor and former president of the Minnesota Dental Association. However, these bacteria are triggered to make acid when you eat anything with carbohydrates — and sugar is a carb.
So, the fact is that carbohydrates, to include sugar, provide the “fuel” necessary for the bacteria in your mouth to produce the acid which eats away at the enamel and causes cavities.
Once the acid eats into your tooth, the bacteria “have a nice little hole to live in where your toothbrush and floss can’t reach,” says Harms. The bacteria continue to metabolize carbs and produce acids — and your cavity just keeps getting bigger.
As we’re all taught when we learn about fire prevention, the primary way to kill a fire is to starve it of fuel. Same thing here. If we remove the source of the fuel, the bacteria haven’t anything to use to produce the acid necessary to attack your teeth. However, if you don’t do the necessary oral hygiene and/or have some bad eating habits, chances are you’ll be prone to cavities.
It’s not the amount of carbs you eat that causes tooth decay, but the length of time your teeth are exposed. If you eat a lot of carbs for lunch, that’s one big exposure. But if you spend the day sipping sugary drinks, that’s continuous exposure — and much more unhealthy for your teeth.
Keep an eye on what you eat and how you eat, and if you fall into any of the categories noted, you might want to consider cleaning your teeth soon afterward and avoiding sipping on sugary drinks all day if you’re prone to cavities. And, of course, brush and floss regularly.