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How Do You Get Cavities?

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Close-up of toddler's mouth and a hand of a dentist holding a dental mirror examining her teeth with cavities

Brushing and flossing correctly is one of the most effective ways to prevent cavities. However, even if people practice good oral hygiene, they may develop cavities that need restorative care.

A cavity, also known as tooth decay, is a hole that develops in the enamel of your tooth. Cavities start small and grow larger over time if left untreated. Many cavities don’t cause pain at first, so it can be difficult to recognize an issue. Make sure you get regular dental exams to find cavities before they become too painful. 

If you recently got a cavity, you may be wondering why. More things can cause them than not brushing or flossing regularly. Cavities can also be caused by

  • Dry mouth
  • How you brush
  • Your diet
  • Not enough fluoride
  • Acid reflux disease
  • Family history of cavities

Dry Mouth

Some medications affect the salivary glands in the mouth, causing dry mouth. Bad bacteria from food produce acid in the mouth, and saliva is the best defence against it. It washes away plaque and regulates the formation of decay, which leads to cavities.

If you think you may be experiencing dry mouth from your medication, let your doctor know so they can change it for you and reduce your risk of cavities.

How You Brush

While a quick swipe of toothpaste may provide a minty refreshing feel on your teeth, it won’t remove any leftover debris or cavity-causing plaque.

You should be brushing your teeth for 2 minutes at least. Set a timer, use your cell phone’s alarm function, or listen to a two-minute song while brushing your teeth. This increases overall brushing time and decreases the risk of cavities.

Additionally, make sure you’re brushing all areas of your mouth. You may already be brushing for two minutes, but if you don’t remove plaque from all areas of the mouth, you are still at risk for cavities.

Your Diet

If you don’t eat a healthy diet, you’re more likely to get cavities. This is due to two factors:

  • A nutrient-dense diet aids in the maintenance of strong teeth, and a poor diet may promote tooth decay.
  • Sugars and starches feed plaque bacteria, which builds up and eventually eats away at the enamel, causing cavities.

Not Enough Flouride

Fluoride can be very beneficial because it prevents cavities in the early stages of decay. It can also reverse tooth damage to some extent by restoring enamel. 

Unfortunately, people often use fluoride-free dental care products, and as a result, despite brushing regularly, their oral health suffers due to a lack of fluoride.

Acid Reflux Disease

Acid reflux is a condition that begins in the stomach, but it can affect other parts of the body as well. When stomach acid makes its way into the mouth, it can easily wear away tooth enamel, a condition known as tooth erosion.

Teeth are more prone to decay, cavities, sensitive teeth, and discoloration without this protective layer of strong enamel.

Family History of Cavities

Due to family history, some people are predisposed to developing dental health problems. You can’t entirely blame family history for tooth decay, however, research has shown that hereditary issues can cause weak enamel, jaw disorders, and misaligned, discoloured teeth.

How Are Cavities Treated?

Let your dentist know if you have any symptoms of discomfort or pain in your teeth. There are many ways your cavity can be treated, depending on the severity.


During a filling, your dentist will remove the decayed material from a tooth with a drill. After that, your dentist will fill your tooth with a material such as composite resin.

Root Canal

If tooth decay gets severe enough that it kills the nerve endings in your teeth, your dentist will likely perform a root canal. They’ll remove your tooth’s nerve tissue, blood vessel tissues, and any decayed areas.

Then your dentist will check for infections and treat the roots as needed. Finally, they will fill the tooth and may even place a crown on it.


If your tooth has severe decay, your dentist may place a custom-fit cap called a crown over it to replace the natural tooth. Before beginning this procedure, your dentist will remove decayed tooth material.

A female dentist is holding a  toothbrush and teeth model demonstrating to a child how to properly brush his teeth with a toothbrush, Proper brushing can decrease the risk of cavities

How to Lower Your Risk of Cavities

  • Brush your teeth twice a day for 2 minutes each time with fluoride toothpaste.
  • Every day, use floss or another between-the-teeth cleaner to clean your teeth.
  • Limit your consumption of sugary foods and beverages.
  • Visit your dentist regularly for an examination and professional teeth cleaning.

Book an Appointment with Your Dentist

Taking care of your oral hygiene at home is important to maintaining a healthy mouth. However, it’s not the only way to avoid cavities.Along with brushing and eating the right foods, you also need professional cleanings and checkups regularly. If you’re due for an oral checkup, book your appointment with Hill Top Dental Centre today.

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Written by Hill Top Dental Centre

Our clinic offers dental exams and cleanings for children and adultsemergency care when you need it, orthodontics to help align teeth or adjust a bad bite, crowns to restore the function and appearance of your teeth, and many other services to support your smile.

Book your family’s next dental appointments with Hill Top Dental Centre.

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