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What Causes Tooth Decay?

Tooth decay, also known as dental caries or cavities, is a common health problem that affects people of all ages. It is the result of a process that occurs over time and involves several factors.

Here are some specific examples of foods and drinks that contribute to tooth decay:

  • Sugary foods and drinks: Lollies, chocolate, cookies, cake, ice cream, soft drinks, juice, sports drinks, energy drinks
  • Starchy foods: Bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, chips
  • Acidic foods and drinks: Citrus fruits, tomatoes, tomato sauce, ketchup, pickles, carbonated beverages
  • Sticky foods and drinks: Caramel, hard and soft toffees
  • Foods and drinks that dry out the mouth: Coffee, tea, alcohol, sugary drinks

It is important to note that even healthy foods, such as fruits and vegetables, can contribute to tooth decay if they are eaten in excess. It is also important to be aware of the hidden sugar in processed foods and drinks.

To reduce your risk of tooth decay, limit your intake of sugary foods and drinks, brush your teeth correctly twice a day for two minutes, and floss once a day. You should also see a dentist for regular checkups and cleanings.

Formation of Plaque

The primary cause of tooth decay is the formation of dental plaque, a clear sticky film that coats your teeth. This plaque is formed due to the consumption of foods high in sugars and starches, combined with inadequate oral hygiene. When these sugars and starches are not cleaned off your teeth, bacteria quickly begin feeding on them and form plaque.

Plaque Attacks

The bacteria in the plaque produce acids that attack the tooth’s hard, outer enamel. These acids remove minerals from the enamel, causing tiny openings or holes — the first stage of cavities. If plaque stays on your teeth, it can harden into tartar (calculus), which makes plaque more difficult to remove and creates a shield for bacteria.

Progression of Decay

Once areas of enamel are worn away, the bacteria and acid can reach the next layer of your teeth, called dentin. This layer is softer than enamel and less resistant to acid. Dentin has tiny tubes that directly communicate with the nerve of the tooth causing sensitivity.

If cavities aren’t treated, they get larger and affect deeper layers of your teeth. They can lead to a severe toothache, infection, and/or tooth loss.


Regular dental visits and good brushing and flossing habits are your best protection against cavities and tooth decay. It’s important to have regular dental checkups and cleanings, even when your mouth feels fine. However, if you experience a toothache or mouth pain, see your dentist as soon as possible.

In conclusion, tooth decay is a preventable condition caused by poor oral hygiene and diet. Regular dental check-ups, a balanced diet low in sugars and starches, and good oral hygiene practices can help prevent tooth decay. If you have any questions or concerns relating to your oral health, please contact our friendly team at Verve Dental Collins Street in Melbourne CBD on (03) 9654 5881 or book online for a consultation.

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