7 Major Causes of Tooth Decay

If you have ever wondered what makes perfect, beautiful teeth rot away, the answer is tooth decay. Unfortunately, many people don’t understand what causes decay, which can cause them to make poor oral health choices that can damage their smiles.

Tooth decay starts whenever you sit down to eat or grab a fast snack on the go. As you chew, microscopic food particles accumulate on and around your teeth, forming a sticky substance called plaque. If plaque isn’t whisked away by brushing, flossing, and rinsing the teeth, it can harden into tartar, which is also called dental calculus. Tartar is exceptionally hard, and very difficult to remove with your at-home toothbrush. Instead, your Long Island periodontist will have to scrape it away from your teeth during your regular dental exam.

In addition to making your teeth look cakey and unkept, plaque and tartar buildup also harbor bacteria, which produce acids as they grow and multiply. Humans have around 25 different strains of oral bacteria in their mouths, which work to destroy different areas. The acids that these bacteria produce dissolve dental enamel, creating cavities and compromising the structural stability of the tooth. If plaque and tartar build along the gumline, they can spark inflammation in the gum tissue, which eventually creates gingival pockets and leads to periodontal disease.

Although you may feel powerless against the aggressive nature of oral bacteria, there is a lot you can do to keep your teeth safe. Here are some factors that contribute to tooth decay, and what you can do to prevent it.

Personal Habits

Oral Hygiene

Neglecting your teeth is the most obvious way to wind up with cavities. To prevent decay, focus on proper oral hygiene throughout your day. In addition to brushing twice a day with a soft-bristled toothbrush and flossing daily, talk with your periodontist about using fluoride supplements or antibacterial mouthwashes. If you have early stage gingivitis, a few extra steps could help you to prevent problems from getting worse. Report problems, such as toothaches, discolorations, chipped teeth, or gum inflammation to your dentist right away to have issues addressed immediately.


Most people realize that smoking is bad for their stamina and lungs, but few smokers understand just how damaging a few cigarettes a day can be to their teeth. Cigars and cigarettes contain lots of harmful chemicals, including tar. These ingredients collect on the teeth, creating a black, sticky film that makes them look yellowed and stained. The stark temperature changes that occur during smoking can also impact blood flow to the mouth, impeding healing. For this reason, smokers are much more likely to suffer from periodontal disease.


Alcohol can do more than impair your judgment and make it hard to remember to brush. Alcohol can dry out your mouth, decreasing levels of saliva that help to neutralize bacterial acids. Research has shown that alcoholics have more plaque on their teeth and are three times more likely to suffer from tooth loss than people who don’t indulge as frequently.


If you really want to keep your teeth clean and healthy, focus on eating well. Crunchy vegetables, such as celery, broccoli, and carrots, help to scrub grime away from your teeth as you chew. On the other hand, starchy, sugary foods, such as doughnuts, crackers, and other snack foods contain simple sugars that contribute to tooth decay.


Keeping your body healthy through daily exercise is also beneficial to your smile. When you get your blood flowing, the body can cope with infections more effectively and remove built-up toxins expelled by oral bacteria.

Simple Genetics

Your genetics also play a role in your ability to fend off oral bacteria. Because physical characteristics, such as the alignment of your teeth, are inherited, you might have a harder time battling tooth decay than your friend or neighbor. Since crooked teeth are harder to brush and floss effectively, orthodontic care can help to correct these issues. Also, since people can inherit medical conditions such as osteoporosis or the tendency to grind their teeth, it is important to talk with your family about their dental health and be on the lookout for your own issues.


Certain medications can also put you at a higher risk for dental decay, since they can impact the way that your body metabolizes sugar or the amount of saliva you produce. For example, heart disease medications and antihistamines can reduce saliva levels, and tetracycline antibiotics can stain your teeth. If you are on medication to improve a chronic medical condition, talk with your doctor or periodontist as soon as possible to learn how it could affect your teeth.

The American Academy of Periodontology recommends visiting a periodontist yearly for a comprehensive periodontal exam, or CPE. During periodontal exams, your doctor will evaluate the health of your teeth, gums, and jaw tissue. If you have already lost teeth due to dental decay, your doctor will talk with you about dental implants in Long Island and recommend you to an implant dentist in Long Island.

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  • I agree with your tips. We need to follow these guidelines to avoid tooth decay. 

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