man smiling | Dentist in Gretna LA

How Cavities Happen

November 1, 2019
Posted By: Dr. Russell Schafer
woman smiling | Dentist gretna la

The most common medical treatment in the world is fixing cavities. The reason that we live in a world where sugar is cheap and common. That being said, for how common sugar is in our everyday lives, some people get cavities at high rates and eat little sugar whereas others eat a lot of sugar and get no cavities. There are three things that cavities need to form and that is carbohydrates for energy, time to allow the cavity to start, and bacteria which drive how destructive the cavity is.

Sugar and Your Teeth


Cavities are like fire and sugar is the gas that fuels them. I have patients that tell me that they brush their teeth two or three times a day and are unsure how they get cavities still. The reason is that while brushing is great, brushing is like water on a fire. If a house is burning down, it does not matter how much water the fire department puts on the house if there is a little bit of gasoline keeping it going. The biggest thing with sugar is the type of sugar being eaten. I find that carbohydrates from fresh fruits and vegetables are usually less destructive than those from candies or dried fruits because candies are dried fruits are stickier and can get caught in the nooks and crannies of the teeth and cause cavities in those areas. Other sources of sugar that are often not considered that fall in the same categories as candy and dried fruits are bread, potato chips, and starchy vegetables. I also find that all sugary drinks cause similar amounts of damage. A lightly sweetened sweet tea can be just as destructive as heavily sweeten beverage like apple juice, and the reason is that the sugar still coats the teeth the same amount with both drinks.

How Cavities Can Form


After sugar is on the teeth, how long it stays on the teeth will determine how quickly a cavity forms. Thankfully saliva continually helps wash the teeth off. Much like sticky sugar on a plate is easily removed by placing it under a sink, water that covers the teeth helps remove carbohydrates that are difficult to remove. For patients who routinely get cavities, I recommend that they drink water after any meal to help rinse out the mouth. Brushing and flossing help as well because it mechanically cleans teeth to remove more stubborn plaque that simple rinsing cannot remove. The last point that I will make is that if a patient suffers from chronic cavities, it is imperative that the patient not do any night time snacking. I often see patients who drink soda or eat candy in bed and then go six to eight hours without brushing their teeth. When sleeping, saliva flow slows down immensely which is why people often wake up with a dry mouth. The dry mouth allows the sugar to sit on the teeth for much longer than it would during the day time and causes cavities to form much quicker.

Bacteria in Your Mouth


The last part of the equation is what type of bacteria is in the mouth. Much like two people can get the flu but one person might be out for a couple of days and the other person is out for an entire mouth, some strains of bacteria are more virulent than others. The strains of bacteria are often passed down from parent to child but can also be passed from two people kissing each other. Some bacteria produce more acid than others do whereas other bacteria is more resistant to brushing. To help solve these problems I generally recommend whitening and Peridex mouth rinse. Whitening helps by killing the bacteria in your mouth as it is concentrated hydrogen peroxide. By whitening once per week, the bacteria levels in the mouth are much lower. Second, I like to recommend Peridex mouth rinse which found in the pharmacy. This type of mouth rinse is used for the first seven days of each mouth and works well in conjunction with whitening because it also helps kill harmful bacteria in the mouth. While doing whitening and rinsing with Peridex will not kill all the bacteria in the mouth, it will greatly reduce the number of bacteria. The fewer bacteria in the mouth the lower the chance of getting a cavity.

Contact Our Gretna LA Dental Clinic


When my patients understand the process for cavities, they are better able to prevent new ones from happening. When my patients do get a new cavity every six months or come to me for the first time with more than five cavities, I like to go through these steps as it helps decide on new habits that keep the mouth healthy. Doing these simple things like eating less sugar, rinsing your mouth out routinely after meals, and using better oral hygiene tools can really dampen the amount of cavities. If you are concerned about cavities, please give us a call at 504-392-5104 and we will help you out.

If you have difficulty using our website, please email us or call us at (504) 392-5104
View the ADA Accessibility Statement