Tooth Decay and Acid Production
Most people think that sugary foods are the cause of tooth decay, but this is only part of the story!
Tooth decay is actually a result of acids. These acids dissolve the tooth enamel and cause cavities! But how do these acids get onto our teeth?
It takes sugar to make acids
When we eat or drink sugary foods or beverages, we aren't just feeding ourselves, we feed the bacteria too!
These bacteria take the sugar and turn it into acids, and these acids then start to dissolve the tooth enamel! Sugar doesn’t turn into tooth-harming acid without bacteria, so we need to have these bacteria in our mouths for sugar to harm our teeth.
Glossary and additional information
Enamel is the hard outer coating of your tooth. Its job is to protect the softer inner areas of your tooth. If a tooth's enamel dissolves away, the sensitive inner part of the tooth may be exposed, causing a toothache!
A cavity occurs when a tooth's enamel dissolves. This can cause brown spots on the teeth and pain. "Tooth Decay" is another phrase often used to mean the same thing as cavity.
Sugary foods include not only candy and pop, but many other foods as well. Juices, crackers or biscuits, and dried fruits often contain lots of sugar. To learn more about tooth healthy snacks, please visit our healthy snacking article.
Bacteria are also commonly called "bugs" or "germs". They are much too small to be seen with the naked eye.
Government of Alberta Health and Wellness. A Parent's Guide to Healthy Teeth for Children Birth to Six Years. Available at: www.health.alberta.ca/documents/Healthy-teeth-guide.pdf. Accessed 07/03, 2009.
Milgrom P, Weinstein P. Early Childhood Caries: A Team Approach to Prevention and Treatment. United States of America: Continuing Dental Education; 1999.