What Are the Major Causes of Tooth Decay?

Tooth decay is more common than you think. According to a recent Canadian Health Measures Survey report, 96% of adults in Canada have had a history of tooth decay.

Poor dental practice is a common factor that causes tooth decay. Tooth decay has stages, each with unique symptoms and pain levels.

This means it’s also possible to have tooth decay and not know until it becomes uncomfortable and painful. Learning about the causes of tooth decay will help you understand why your teeth are painful and when to see a dentist.

This article will explain the common causes of tooth cavities, highlighting what you can do to prevent them.

Why Is My Tooth Decaying?

Tooth decay occurs when bacteria in your mouth transform into acids that affect the enamel. The early stages of tooth decay have no symptoms. Incidentally, it’s also the best time to start dental treatment for tooth decay.

Daily activities, including eating and drinking, can encourage bacteria growth and are the leading causes of tooth decay.

Poor Diet

Bad diet choices are the most common factor that causes tooth decay. Most sweet food and drinks you love to take aren’t good for your dental teeth. Some of the common food options include:

  • Bread
  • Milk
  • Cakes
  • Cookies
  • Sodas
  • Fruit juices
  • Energy drinks
  • Chips
  • Dried fruit

The list is endless, and avoiding these meals is almost impossible. However, as much as you can, try to reduce it.

Already, your mouth is home to about 700 bacteria that majorly improve your oral health. However, there are some bad bacteria present that survive and thrive on these sugary and sticky meals.

Some of these meals, like milk, cakes, and dried fruit, stick to your teeth while you chew and require more than saliva to flush them out. Likewise, sugary, starchy meals filled with carbohydrates give bad bacteria strength to form acids damaging the teeth.

First, the acids form plaque, a hard substance usually above or below the gum line. The plaque’s hardness makes it hard to remove by brushing and contains acids that attack the tooth’s first layer, the enamel. An attack on the enamel causes cavities that keep spreading into tooth decay.

Avoiding these meals may seem impossible, but you must reduce the sugar you consume daily. Also, drink lots of water after eating to remove sticky food particles immediately.

poor diet

Tooth Location

The tooth location is one of the common reasons for tooth decay. When you eat, you chew with the molars and premolars, usually behind the teeth.

However, it’s hard to see or reach the molars and premolars while caring for your teeth. Unfortunately, the molars and premolars require more care since they do more of the chewing job. But since you can’t reach them, bacteria and plaques find it easy to operate.

The beginning stages of tooth decay occur between the grooves, pits, crannies, and roots. These terms refer to small openings that can hold food particles, and the back teeth have many of these holes.

Dental string floss can help, but reaching these teeth at the back is daunting. The only solution to the tooth location challenge is to rinse your mouth thoroughly with water immediately after eating.

Poor Dental Fillings

A dental filling is usually the first step of some tooth decay treatments that stop the spread of cavities. But if not done properly, it can cause tooth decay.  That’s why you need the right dentist to help fix tooth decay.

A good dentist will drill the affected tooth, removing any decay before filling it up with fillings. There are different fillings, including silver, ceramic, and gold. The choice of filling lies with you, but you should consider the dentist’s advice and tooth location.

Getting a well-done tooth cavity is great, but the results wear off without proper care. The edges may get rough, and the filling may weaken, allowing more tooth decay. Similarly, a hole between the filling and your tooth leaves space for plaque formation and further decay.

Usually, when tooth decay forms after a filling, it’s worse than the initial one. The best solution is to visit your dentist regularly after the cavity. Take dental visits seriously, as the dentist can check and correct filling weaknesses.

Related Article: Types of Dental Implants – Which One is Best for You?

poor dental fillings


Aging causes tooth decay indirectly, as the teeth are more fragile at young and older ages. Tooth decay can affect anyone, regardless of age, but it’s more common when the teeth form or weaken.

According to CDC research, the percentage of children with decaying teeth reduced from over 70% to a little over 20%. This figure may be a vast improvement, but still, it indicates the increased chances of tooth decay in children.

Sugar remains in children’s mouths for hours after you feed babies milk and other sugary items with bedtime bottles. In turn, this will give enough time and strength for the bacteria to work itself to tooth decay. Experts call this type of decay the baby bottle tooth decay.

In older adults, gums and teeth lose their strong connection naturally, giving room for more holes. These holes hold food items; at this age, there is a limit to how much you can brush or floss your teeth.

The only solution for age causes of tooth decay is to visit a dentist frequently. They can tell when it’s time to remove any tooth you can’t fix.

Mouth Dryness

Apart from providing moisture that helps flush food away naturally, some compounds in saliva can neutralize the effect of plaque acids.

Some of the essential compounds in saliva include;

  • Calcium
  • Bicarbonate
  • Phosphate

These compounds combined tackle the acids in plaque.

Mouth dryness occurs when the salivary glands struggle to make saliva. Usually, mouth dryness results from dehydration because the salivary glands depend on the body’s water.

With less saliva in your mouth, your meals aren’t dissolving quickly, and there is no resistance against the plaque acids formed by bacteria. This causes tooth decay but can also lead to more oral issues.

The best solution is to remain hydrated, so there’s more water for the salivary glands. Also, you can chew sugar-free gums, as it increases the rate of saliva production.

mouth dryness

Inadequate Dental Health Practice

A common mistake is waiting for extreme tooth decay symptoms before visiting a dentist. The best way to prevent or control tooth decay is to take your dental health seriously. Visiting the dentist is the perfect way to ensure the best dental health.

A dentist understands the different stages of tooth decay, and they can provide the perfect solution. Also, they can give the best consultation and preventive measures for any issues.

Another important dental health practice is maintaining good oral hygiene. Surprisingly, many people either need to learn how to brush appropriately or remember to do so. Whereas brushing twice daily is ideal; the second is more crucial to preventing decay.

Early in the morning, your saliva has washed away most of the meals eaten, or the bad bacteria have used them for strength. When you brush at this time, you’ll be lucky to remove some of the plaques and other food items. However, when you brush after meals, you tend to remove almost all the food items since it’s recent.

Lastly, you have to combine brushing and flossing for teeth cleaning. Any food that causes tooth decay gets stuck between teeth holes. Most toothbrushes can’t get between these holes, but a string of dental floss can. While the toothbrush removes the items on the surface, the floss will take care of the little holes.

Underlying Health Issues and Eating Disorders

Some eating disorders like bulimia and anorexia can lead to vomiting. Stomach acid is part of the vomits and creates cavities in your teeth.

In turn, this gives more space for food to stay and more room for bacteria to attack the teeth. Also, these eating disorders may affect how your body produces saliva, causing tooth decay.

Also, a health issue like constant heartburn or acid reflux disease can cause tooth decay.

Related Article: 8 Tips For Keeping Your Teeth And Gums Healthy


Prevent Tooth Decay with Regular Dental Care

The best solution for tooth decay is visiting and listening to your dentist. Dentists are specialists, so they understand what your tooth needs at the right time. You need to visit a qualified dentist to check your teeth from time to time and take care of your oral health.

Here at Art of Dentistry, we provide first-rate dental checkups and treatment services. Visit our dental offices or call for tooth decay consultations and treatment you can trust.