Cavities are holes in our teeth that are created by acid. The acid in our mouths is created by the bacteria that live in our mouths.  We are not born with oral bacteria;  we pick them up as soon as we are born.  Generally, mothers, because of their close contact with their babies, transmit their own oral bacteria to their babies.  One major strain that causes tooth decay is Streptococcus Mutans.  Once we contract them, we cannot get rid of them.

Oral bacteria require glucose to live.  We provide them plenty of glucose in the form of sugary foods and grain-based foods (simple carbohydrates).  Examples of foods that cause cavities are crackers, pretzels, bread, rice, pasta, and cereals.  Unlike healthy complex carbs in fruits and vegetables, simple carbs begin their breakdown in our mouths.  Oral amylase (an enzyme) in our saliva breaks grain-based carbohydrates into glucose, feeding our oral bacteria.  Bacteria eat the glucose, metabolize it, store some for later (like when we’re sleeping), and excrete the waste.  Bacterial waste is plaque.  Plaque is that creamy white coating that develops on our teeth (even between meals and after we brush).  Plaque is very sticky and very acidic.  Bacteria have evolved to live very happily in an acidic environment.  Plaque CANNOT be rinsed off.  It must be mechanically removed by brushing and flossing.

For more info, visit the Centers for Disease Control:


Dr. Amy Cook

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