What causes teeth to decay? It’s a question we’re often asked when we inform patients that they need a tooth filling

Tooth decay is a common problem. Nearly one-third of Australian adults over 15 have at least one tooth surface affected by untreated cavities. There is a good chance you have a hole hiding between your teeth too. 

When you let a cavity develop in a tooth and leave it untreated, it can cause severe problems in the teeth and mouth. 

Among other things, an untreated cavity can lead to infection, pain, and possible tooth loss. That is why no one wishes to hear that they have tooth decay. But rarely does anyone know that it can result from things other than a sweet tooth.

But before discussing what causes teeth to decay, let’s explain a little more about tooth decay itself. 


What Is Tooth Decay

Tooth decay is damage to the surface of a tooth, often known as the enamel. It occurs as a result of plaque accumulation on the teeth.

Plaque is a sticky film formed on the teeth by bacteria, including acids that eat away at the tooth enamel, resulting in the formation of small holes called cavities. If the process continues, bacteria and acid can access the next tooth layer called the dentin. This layer contains minuscule tubes that communicate directly with the tooth nerve causing sensitivity. As the destruction continues, the bacteria and acids reach the inner tooth material, the pulp, that contains blood vessels and nerves. The pulp becomes swollen and causes pain and discomfort, often resulting in a dental emergency.

To prevent this scenario, it helps to know what causes teeth to decay so you can do your best to prevent it. 


Causes Of Tooth Decay



Poor oral hygiene

Poor oral hygiene is the most common cause of dental caries. Plaque can only be removed by twice-daily brushing and flossing combined with regular dental cleans

Leaving plaque on the teeth for an extended length of time weakens the tooth enamel and irritates the gum tissue, leading to gum disease, tooth decay and cavities. When left untreated, the situation will only worsen and could necessitate a visit to an emergency dentist


Snacking throughout the day

Frequent snacking on sugary foods and drinks provides the mouth with extra bacteria that produce more acids that can attack the teeth and wear them down. Sipping soft drinks throughout the day creates a continual acid bath over the teeth. 


The location of the tooth

The molars at the very back of the mouth are more prone to decay than those at the front. Why is that? One of the reasons is that these teeth are more difficult to reach while brushing and flossing, which means that more plaque is left behind. 

These teeth also have many grooves on their surfaces, meaning that food particles are more likely to remain in the mouth long enough to develop acids that damage the enamel. When it comes to protecting your teeth, dental sealants are an excellent option.

Moreover, it helps to be more vigilant while brushing and flossing. If your brushing and flossing are haphazard, you’re falling at the first hurdle of what causes tooth decay. 


Receding gums

Plaque can soon accumulate close to the roots of the teeth if the gums are receding. The reason is that tooth roots do not have enamel to protect them. Hence, they are more susceptible to decay.

If you have this condition, you need to run to an emergency dentist to get it treated. 


Dry mouth

You may find the concept of drool and saliva unpleasant, yet they play a crucial function in preserving oral health, particularly in preventing tooth decay. Dry mouth can result from a lack of water intake, as can habits such as smoking and mouth breathing. All of these can lead to dehydration and a resultant dry mouth. 


Stomach acid

Patients with chronic heartburn or who vomit regularly may have tooth decay because stomach acid comes into touch with the teeth and erodes the enamel. This is why bulimic patients are more likely to develop this condition. 


Postponing dental appointments

decayed tooth treatment prevention southportDentist visits can be postponed for various reasons, the most common being a lack of finances and dental anxiety. In the long run, delaying dental care can lead to more extensive, expensive, and time-consuming restorations.

Routine dental cleanings remove any plaque or tartar that has built up on the surface of your teeth. Moreover, the dentist checks for any symptoms of decay and provides a timely solution. Regular dental check-ups and cleans help prevent a dental emergency.

A dental exam and prophylaxis cleaning are the best ways to prevent tooth decay, so make an appointment with your dentist at least once every year. 



Enamel on your teeth is irreplaceable, so you must take great care of it. It’s possible to safeguard teeth from tooth decay by identifying risk factors that may be present in your life. 


Planning To Visit A Dentist?

Call us right away at Southport Park Family Dental if you have spotted a cavity or generally wish to get your teeth examined. Our experts can advise you on procedures to fill your cavity and preserve your tooth since we think giving our patients the best result possible is essential. 

Contact us at (07) 5655 7688, and we’ll do our best to accommodate you ASAP.






PubMed CentralOral Health of Australian Adults: Distribution and Time Trends of Dental Caries, Periodontal Disease and Tooth Loss

PubMed Central – Dental erosion and severe tooth decay related to soft drinks: a case report and literature review

ADA – Dental Sealants

Better Health Channel – Dental Anxiety and Phobia



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