How Cavities Form

Cavities—also referred to as tooth decay or caries—are formed when surfaces of the tooth dissolve due to acid. To understand this process you must know two things first:

  1. The outermost layer of teeth, called enamel, is made of crystals.  These crystals include minerals such as calcium.
  1. Bacteria live in your mouth, around your teeth and gums—this is normal. These bacteria produce an acid by-product when exposed to sugar you eat.

The process: Mouth bacteria create acid from the sugar you eat. The acid dissolves the tooth's crystal structure. This happens from the inside-out.

The more often your mouth bacteria have sugar, the more often the teeth are exposed to acid, losing more minerals from the crystal structure. Eventually the structure dissolves so much that the surface of the tooth caves in. A crater (cavity) forms, exposing the softer inside part of the tooth and causing sensitivity and pain.  

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