How do cavities in teeth develop?

Your teeth are covered with plaque, a sticky film of bacteria. After you have a meal, snack or beverage that contains sugars or starches, the bacteria release acids derived from dietary sugars that attack tooth enamel. Repeated attacks can cause the enamel to break down and may eventually result in cavities.
We get cavities in teeth from a substance in the mouth called plaque, which sticks to teeth and contains acid-producing bacteria that can cause tooth decay and a cavity or hole in the tooth. When we eat sugary or starchy foods, acids are produced that attack and break down the enamel or protective surface of our teeth, which, over time, can also lead to decay of the inner part of a tooth.
Caries is the disease process that leads to cavities or the "holes" in the mouth that we are all too familiar with. This is an infectious process that is caused by a few different families of bacteria that infect the mouth very early in life, generally thought to be aby age 2.  Once the mouth of a child is infected with these caries causing bacteria, everytime he or she is exposed to sugary substance or anything that contains carbohydrates for that matter, the caries causing bacteria begin to produce and deposit acid onto the tooth surfaces. When this continue over days, weeks and months on areas that are not regularly cleansed with a tooth brush and properly exposed to fluoride (2 minute of foamed tooth paste is best during brushing), the hard enamel of the teeth breaks down resuting in dental "cavity" or a "soft hole" in the tooth.   As the bacteria contiue to grow and produce more acid, more and more of the tooth structures and minerals are lost until this process get close to the dental pulp or the nerve of the tooth.  The nerve of the tooth usually will respond by pain signals as it is now exposed to hot, cold, pressure or sweets that can not reach it easily and stimulate it.  

Continue Learning about Cavities


Cavities are tiny holes in your teeth that have developed from decay. Left untreated, cavities will get larger, and can cause toothache and possible loss of teeth. Anybody can get a cavity, but you put yourself at greater risk if ...

you don't brush regularly, or frequently consume sweets or sugary drinks. Your dentist can help prevent cavities with fluoride treatments, and can find them by taking pictures (X-rays) of the teeth. Once found, the dentist may treat your cavity with a filling or if extensive, with a crown. If there has been an extensive infection, other treatments, including antibiotics or a root canal surgery may be indicated.

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.