Dr. Tal Lewinger Dental NewsDr. Tal Lewinger is a general dentist and owner of Marketplace Dentistry in Vaughan, Ontario practising eco-responsible (and fun) family and cosmetic dentistry and

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Top 5 Causes of Tooth Decay

Tal Lewinger - Friday, June 15, 2018

Have you ever had a toothache before? If you have, you’ll probably remember just how much it hurt and how it affected your day, even though the affected area was so small. That pain can leave you unable to finish your daily tasks, and the cause might just be tooth decay. But, what causes tooth decay?


The top 5 causes of tooth decay are:


  • Alcohol
  • Smoking
  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Sugary and starchy diet
  • Fluoride deficiency




People tend to forget that dehydration, a side effect of drinking alcohol, can be incredibly damaging to the teeth. Alcohol decreases the flow of saliva, allowing bacteria to cling to the enamel of teeth, increasing the risk of tooth decay.


Alcohol also has a high sugar content, which leads to tooth decay as we will discuss below.




Not only if smoking cigarettes dangerous to your health, it’s dangerous for your teeth. Smokers are at an increased risk of cavities, and even those who are regularly exposed to second-hand smoke are, too.


Oral Hygiene


Proper dental care includes brushing your teeth regularly, as well as flossing. Both of these should be done twice a day, after you get up in the morning and right before bedtime. If you can brush after each meal this is ideal, although not practical for everyone.


When bacteria in the mouth produces lactic acids, it causes damage to the teeth’s enamel, which leads to tooth decay. Regular brushing prevents excess plaque from building up around the teeth. Plaque is a breeding ground for bacteria, and offers it something to cling on to. Less plaque means a reduction in the bacteria that produces lactic acids, thus reducing the risk of tooth decay.


Brushing and flossing maintains the mouth’s cleanliness, controlling bacteria growth on the surface, gums, and between the teeth. To ensure you are brushing properly it is important to visit your dentist every 6 months. Your dentist will scrape the plaque that traditional brushing cannot.


Poor Diet


A sweet tooth isn’t just bad for your weight. Eating candy and drinking sugary beverages is like throwing a party for the bacteria that lives inside your mouth. As you enjoy your treats, the bacteria does too. After just 20 minutes’ bacteria transforms that sugar into waste, creating lactic acid. Starch runs the same risk, as once it’s broken down inside the mouth it becomes sugar, inviting bacteria to transform it into the lactic acid that will lead to tooth decay.


Fluoride Deficiency


Fluoride helps fight and prevent tooth decay. It can strengthen the teeth’s enamel and make teeth stronger against lactic acids. Often, the water we drink has fluoride in it, and it’s in the toothpaste we use. If you don’t live in an area with fluoride in the water, and you’re worried about a deficiency, speak to your dentist.


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