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What Causes Tooth Decay?

child brushing teeth

Parents are often reasonably concerned about their children developing cavities (dental caries). Our pediatric dentists want to emphasize the importance of keeping the mouth clean and avoiding preventable dental issues. In many cases, using proper oral hygiene as directed can help to reduce the risk of cavities and other conditions that can lead to more serious problems. To help parents and kids better understand how brushing, flossing, and regular checkups play an essential role in oral and whole health, we want to explain how tooth decay happens.

Cavities form as a result of tooth decay, which is caused by certain types of bacteria. These “bad” bacteria feed on the sugars found in many foods and drinks we consume (and not just candy or snacks). As the bacteria eat the sugars, they produce acid-making plaque that removes minerals from your teeth. Once enough minerals have been extracted, holes open in the enamel (the outer surface of the tooth) and the bacteria can go deeper into the tooth’s structure. If the plaque is not cleaned away and the cavity filled, bacteria can keep working its way into the center of the tooth (pulp) where the nerves are. At this point, the tooth may need to be pulled if it’s a primary (baby) tooth, or a root canal and dental crown may be recommended to save the tooth.

You can help to prevent tooth decay in many ways, including choosing healthy foods and drinks, brushing and flossing regularly, and seeing your dentist regularly. For more information, please don’t hesitate to contact us.