What Causes Cavities?

One of the most common issues that dentists must treat is cavities. In fact, nearly one in four adults between the ages of 20 and 64 currently has a cavity, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Additionally, 90% of adults have had a cavity in their lifetime (CDC). Since it is likely that you may develop a cavity at some point, it is good to know what they are and how they form. 

What Is a Cavity?

A cavity begins as a small pit of decay in the enamel of your tooth. As it gets bigger, it will burrow further into your tooth, reaching the nerves and connective tissue. Without treatment, cavities can cause infection or the loss of your tooth. 

Many people think that cavities are only an issue for children. However, that is not true. While tooth decay is the most common chronic illness among children, many adults get cavities

Common Causes

There are several reasons that you may develop a cavity. 

Poor Oral Health

One of the most common ways someone might develop a cavity is due to poor oral health. First, you must brush and floss your teeth as your dentist instructs; otherwise, plaque will flourish in your mouth. Plaque is a type of sticky, white bacteria that clings to your teeth. If you don’t remove it, it will begin to erode your enamel, causing cavities. 

This is one of the reasons your dentist recommends brushing your teeth at least twice a day. Additionally, you must floss daily. While brushing is essential, it is not enough to remove plaque sufficiently. Flossing allows you to get rid of plaque between your teeth and underneath your gum line. 

Improving your oral health can reduce your chances of developing cavities. 


While your oral health routine is a large factor, your diet can cause cavities as well. Any food or beverage that can damage your enamel can increase your chances of developing cavities. For example, acidic foods can weaken your enamel. Drinks, such as coffee or wine, contain high levels of acid. The more you drink them, the more it damages your enamel. 

Additionally, high amounts of sugar can also erode your enamel. This is not because of the sugar itself. In fact, the bacteria in your mouth consume the sugar, but then it creates acid that eats away your enamel. It is possible to consume beverages that have sugar and acid. For example, energy drinks and sodas contain sugar and carbonation that weaken your enamel. 

Avoiding foods or drinks with high levels of acid or sugar can minimize your likelihood of tooth decay. 


Sometimes, it is beyond your control if you develop cavities. Even if you have a balanced diet and an excellent oral health care routine, you can still form cavities. This is because some people are genetically predisposed to tooth decay. It can be your genes that affect your enamel. 


Harry W. McCool, DDS, PC
Lilburn, GA Dentist

645 Beaver Ruin Rd NW, Suite A
Lilburn, GA 30047

New Patients (770) 450-4407

Current Patients (770) 381-9320


Monday - Thursday
8:00am - 5:00pm

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