Illustration of tooth with tooth decay cavity on crown

It’s common to hear people warn of the negative impact sugar has on your teeth. Many will warn you that sugary foods and beverages cause tooth decay. But is this really the source of tooth decay? Yes and no.


Here’s what you need to know about tooth decay and other information to help you better understand your mouth. With a better understanding of tooth decay, you can fight cavities more effectively.


Bacteria in Your Mouth

You have an average of between 34 and 72 different kinds of bacteria in your mouth.


Along with mucus and other particles in your mouth, bacteria form a film over the outer layer of your teeth (the enamel). This sticky film is called plaque.


Bacteria Produce Acid

There are sugars and starches (both carbohydrates) in most of the foods and beverages you consume.


The bacteria in the plaque feed on these sugars and starches. As a result, the bacteria produce harmful acids that eat away at your enamel. This process is actually an infection in your teeth.


Tooth made out of sugar cubes and black rocks to resemble tooth decay cavity



Sometimes the minerals in your saliva can help your tooth rebuild itself. However, the decay can reach a point where the tooth can no longer be repaired.


As tooth decay progresses, cavities form. These are holes that actually form in your teeth as the decay continues to destroy your enamel.


Small cavities can generally be repaired with dental fillings.


Root Canal and Tooth Extraction

If the decay reaches the inner layer of your tooth (the pulp), you will likely need a root canal.


In this procedure, the dentist removes the infected pulp and nerves. After cleaning out the infection, the dentist will fill and seal your tooth.  A root canal enables you to keep your natural tooth.


If tooth decay progresses too far, the tooth may need to be extracted. The infection can spread to other parts of your body if the decaying tooth isn’t removed.


Illustration of tooth decay cavity at 4 different stages from small cavity to need for root canal


Prevent Tooth Decay

A good dental care routine is the best defense against tooth decay.


Brush your teeth twice a day, floss once a day, and visit the dentist every six months for a professional dental cleaning.


Plaque that isn’t removed hardens to tartar. This hard substance can be removed only by dental tools. If tartar isn’t removed, you put yourself at risk of gingivitis or a more severe level of gum (periodontal) disease.


Other Ways to Prevent Tooth Decay

If you eat something high in sugar or starch, wash it down with a glass of water. This helps to rinse your mouth of food particles.


If you drink a beverage high in sugar, follow it with a glass of water.


The American Dental Association recommends chewing sugar-free gum for 20 minutes after eating a meal. This stimulates saliva flow and rinses your mouth.


If you eat or drink something that is highly acidic, wait at least 30 minutes before brushing your teeth. The acid will weaken your enamel, so brushing right away can remove even more of your enamel.


Toothpaste and toothbrush in clear glass holder on counter


Tooth decay can negatively impact the appearance of your smile and it also poses a threat to the health of your teeth. However, understanding what causes tooth decay will enable you to better fight cavities and maintain good dental health.


For more information or to schedule a dental appointment, contact A Beautiful Smile at Lake Pointe in Sugar Land, Texas. We are committed to providing you and your family with expert dental care.