Acid and bacteria.
There are many types of bacteria in the mouth. Certain acid-producing species are the best at causing tooth decay or cavities. These acid-producing bacteria love to eat sucrose and fructose. As they ferment these sugars they produce acids which demineralize the enamel and make a hole in the tooth (they decay or eat the tooth away).
Because sucrose and fructose are in many of the foods and drinks we consume, our diets are also a significant factor in whether or not we will get a cavity. What is critical is the amount of time the sugars are in contact with the teeth. If I am sipping a soda for a couple of hours while I work or watch a movie my teeth are repeatedly or constantly bathed in acid and sugar and I could have a real problem. The stickier the candy the higher risk for a cavity. Having said that, if I mix my sugar with other foods or remove the sugar by rinsing, brushing, flossing soon after I eat or drink it I am at less risk and can many times be safe.
As we have long been taught, mechanical removal of the sticky plaque from the teeth and gums by brushing and flossing is imperative.
Some people genetically are at a higher risk for cavities. Their saliva does not neutralize acids well. Some people even have acidic saliva so their teeth are constantly bathed in acid. They may crave sugar because they do not like the taste of their mouth. Others have a higher level of the bad acid-producing bacteria. We know that cavities are contagious. The bad bacteria can be passed from family member to family member.
Our overall health also plays a role. For instance if I am sick it could be harder for me to take care of my teeth and my immune system may not be good at removing bacterial pathogens from my mouth.
The level of acid in the mouth is critical. If we stay above 5.6 on the pH scale we will not get cavities. There are many products now that can 1. neutralize acid 2. rid the mouth of the bad bacteria 3. strengthen the teeth. Thank you.
More Answers from Quinn Schiffman