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Why Do Cavities Form?

young birthday boy seated at kitchen table with plastic spoon in mouth

According to the CDC, cavities are one of the most common chronic diseases of early childhood. About 20% of children between the ages of 5 and 11 have at least one cavity. However, the good news is that cavities are completely preventable. If caught early, they’re fairly easy to treat. Read on to learn why sugar causes cavities and what you can do about it.

What is a Cavity?

Cavities, also known as dental caries or tooth decay, are damaged areas of tooth enamel that develop into small holes. If left untreated, they can cause decay to the nerve and inner pulp of the tooth, potentially leading to root canals or even necessitating tooth removal.

Why Do Cavities Form?

There are a few reasons why cavities form, but the basic science of it is this: consuming foods and drinks—especially sugary ones—leaves traces of these foods in your mouth. Your mouth also contains bacteria that break down these leftover traces, turning them into acids.

If left alone, this combination of bacteria, food debris, and acids combines to form plaque. This sticky substance adheres to the enamel of the tooth and begins to eat away at it, eventually forming a cavity.These are a few causes for why cavities form:

  • Lack of proper oral hygiene
  • A diet high in sugary foods or drinks
  • Lack of regular dental cleanings
  • Persistent dry mouth

Fortunately, most of those causes are easily preventable. With just a few regular habits, you can help prevent cavities in your child’s teeth. (We’ll dig further into the question “why does sugar cause cavities?” below.)

black and white photo of young girl brushing her teeth

How Do I Prevent Cavities?

Proper Oral Hygiene

Make sure your child is regularly practicing good oral hygiene so they never have to ask you, “Why do I have so many cavities?” Have them brush their teeth with a fluoride-infused toothpaste twice a day for a full two minutes each time. If they’re old enough, they can also use a mouthwash before brushing.

Why do cavities form between teeth? Because most children (and adults!) skip flossing. Older children should floss before brushing and then use mouthwash last. This gets food particles out of the hard-to-reach places like between teeth so the brush can whisk them away, and the wash gets any remaining bits.

Regular Dental Cleanings

dentist cleaning young boy’s teeth

Even with the best at-home oral hygiene, children still need their twice-yearly dental cleanings. These appointments give their pediatric dentist the opportunity to spot potential issues before they become large ones, like filling a cavity your child can’t see on a far-back tooth.

It also gives them the opportunity to answer questions you or your child may have (like why do cavities form?). Most importantly, these appointments provide a deep clean, using tools not available to your child at home.

Why Does Sugar Cause Cavities?

It’s time to address the dietary part of cavities. Sugar causes cavities because the bacteria in your mouth break it down into the acids. However, it’s important to note that it’s not only the usual culprits of candy or sodas that can lead to cavities.

Sugar is a carbohydrate, meaning it’s present in foods like bread and fruit. It’s also present in dairy products, sports drinks, and condiments like ketchup and barbeque sauce. So if you’re wondering why cavities form and your child eats a diet low in traditional sugars, these other sources might be the culprit.

Help Prevent Cavities with Tooth Fairy Pediatric Dental

Our mission is to provide your child with the highest quality dental care coupled with a welcoming, approachable staff. We want you and your child to feel at home in our offices, so we strive to make them kid-friendly to reduce anxiety.

Whether your child needs a regular checkup, a filling, X-rays, or even sedation dentistry, we’re prepared to help. The next time your little one asks you, “Why do cavities form?” you can tell them their pediatric dentist is here to help prevent them in the first place.

Give us a call at (775) 800-4117 to schedule your appointment or reach out to us online.

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