What Is Tooth Decay (Cavities)?

What Is Tooth Decay (Cavities)?

While cavities are very common dental problems in both children and adults, they can be prevented. Find out what you need to know to stay ahead of cavities.

What Exactly Is a Cavity?

It’s actually pretty simple. Decay (or softening of enamel) happens over time and the result is a cavity—a defect left in the tooth. Teeth are covered with a hard protective top layer called enamel. But once the enamel is weakened by acids produced by bacteria, a pit or cavity is formed in or on the tooth surface.

What Causes Tooth Decay (Cavities)?

While it’s ultimately acid-producing bacteria that leads to cavity formation, the most common cause of bacterial growth is inadequate daily brushing and flossing. Certain foods (carbs) and sugary drinks contribute to cavity formation—bacteria metabolize these carbohydrates and sugars and produce cavity-forming acids.

Aren’t Cavities Just an Issue for Kids?

Children are very prone to cavities, often on the chewing surfaces where food gets trapped in crevices that kids are likely to miss while brushing. But adults get cavities as well, primarily on the tooth surfaces between your teeth. If teeth are spaced tightly, it’s hard to clean between them to remove plaque. People who experience gum recession may also develop cavities on exposed root surfaces.