Cavities are preventable and caused by certain types of bacteria (germs) that live in your mouth. Find out how to help prevent them.

Cavities are preventable. They are caused by certain types of bacteria (germs) that live in your mouth. Bacteria stick to the film on your teeth called plaque. The bacteria feed on what you eat, especially sugars (including fruit sugars) and cooked starch (bread, potatoes, rice, pasta, etc.). About five minutes after you eat, or drink, the bacteria begin making acid as they digest your food. This acid can break down the tooth's outer surface and dissolve valuable minerals that protect your teeth. The result is cavities.

You are not born with the bacteria that cause cavities. These bacteria are usually transferred to you at a young age by your primary care taker, most often your mother. To reduce the chances of passing the bacteria to your children, avoid sharing utensils, straws or other items that may have saliva on them. Cavities can lead to severe decay and tooth loss if left untreated. Teeth that are missing can be replaced with dental implants and stained, damaged teeth can be fixed with veneers or teeth whitening.

How to prevent decay:

  • Brush your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste
  • Clean between teeth daily with floss
  • Eat a balanced diet
  • Visit your CDA member dentist regularly for professional cleanings and exams

Ask your dentist about:

  • Dental sealants - a protective plastic coating that can be applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth where decay often starts
  • Xylitol - in gums and mints
  • Fluoride treatments including varnish

Information provided by