What Causes Cavities?

Q: What causes tooth decay and cavities and how can I prevent my child from getting them?

A: Cavities are caused by bacteria or germs in the mouth. These germs live and grow from sugary foods and drinks. The bacteria produce acids that will cause teeth to soften. This is a gradual process, but can be avoided with proper care.

Other than water, anything we eat or drink can cause cavities if the teeth are not cleaned and cared for properly. In addition to the typical candy and soft drinks, liquid medicines contain high levels of sugar, fruits contain natural sugar, and many other foods contain various types and amounts of sugar.

Dental decay in children has doubled in the past ten years. Study results that were published in the November-December 1998 issue of the American Academy of Dentistry for Children showed that dental decay in children under the age of five years is rising rapidly and has doubled. The average child in the study had seven cavities prior to their sixth birthday.

Just remember, a clean tooth won't decay! No matter what your child eats, if his or her teeth are clean and bacteria isn't present, then decay won't form. Cleaning removes the accumulation of bacteria. The longer food stays on teeth, the more time bacteria has to form.