Caries (commonly known as cavities) are partially caused by a bacterial infection. This bacterial infection begins when the mouth’s healthy bacteria are replaced by bacteria the produces acid. There are several causes of the bacterial shift, including:
- A diet high in acid and/or sugar
- Food left on the surfaces of the teeth
- A lack of saliva
- Bacteria transmission through saliva exchange
The acid-producing bacteria cling to the teeth’s surfaces like a film. This film-like substance is called plaque. Plaque eats away at the tooth enamel (the hard coating surrounding the tooth) and causes demineralization (brown or white spots on the tooth) and eventually can cause a cavity or hole in the enamel. However, if the bacterial infection in the tooth is caught early on, the tooth can effectively be remineralized and made whole again.