Does eating sugar cause cavities?

This blog post will address the topic, “does eating sugar cause cavities” and cover topics like what research says, can you still get cavities if you don’t eat sugar, do cavities mean bad hygiene, why do you keep getting cavities even though you brush and floss, eating habits that cause cavities and other factors that play role in cavities formation.

Does Eating Sugar Cause Cavities?

Yes, eating sugar may cause cavities or increase the risk of developing cavities. In fact, sugar is considered as the main culprit in cavity formation.

If the sugar in the mouth is not cleaned properly, plaque bacteria attacks and eats the sugar, producing acids. 

These acids demineralize the enamel, thereby weakening the tooth and exposing it to cavity formation.

What Does Research Say?

A research study concluded that consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages on a regular basis increases the chances of having dental caries.

Another study reported that all sugars can be fermented by the oral bacteria and are therefore a potential cause of cavities and tooth decay.

Can you still get cavities if you don’t eat sugar?

Yes, you can still get cavities even if you don’t eat sugar. The other reasons for you getting cavities are poor oral hygiene, regular brushing after eating acidic foods and drinks and bacterial attack on remnants of food debris stuck in between the teeth and gums.

Apart from sugar, foods rich in starch and carbohydrates also contribute equally to cavities formation. Foods and drinks that are rich in acid weaken the enamel by creating pores in them if consumed on a regular basis.

Brushing after eating and drinking acidic foods and drinks, may lead to cavity formation and tooth decay.

Do cavities mean bad hygiene?

No, cavities may not always mean bad hygiene. Cavity may even form in those who brush and floss daily and maintain good oral hygiene. 

Cavity may not always mean bad or poor oral hygiene and may be a result of incorrect brushing or flossing, or incorrect timing of brushing like just after acidic foods or drinks, or may also occur due to continuous use of highly abrasive toothpaste.

Why Do I Keep Getting Cavities Even Though I Brush And Floss?

You keep getting cavities even if you brush and floss your teeth because either you are not brushing or flossing with a proper technique or there may be several pits and grooves present on the occlusal surface of your teeth.

The food particles get stuck in these pits and grooves, not possible to remove from brushing, resulting in plaque buildup, acid attacks on enamel by plaque bacteria and finally cavities formation.

Visit your dentist to get those pits and grooves sealed to prevent formation of cavities.

Eating Habits That Cause Cavities


Sugar and sugar-rich foods and drinks are extremely harmful for your oral health as well as for your overall health.

Sugar allows plaque bacteria to grow faster and significantly contributes to cavity development and tooth decay.

A research study concluded that consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages on a regular basis increases the chances of having dental caries.

Another study reported that all sugars can be fermented by the oral bacteria and are therefore a potential cause of cavities and tooth decay.

Cold Drinks Or Carbonated Drinks

Carbonated drinks are highly acidic and contain a very high amount of sugar, resulting in increased risk of developing cavities.

The high acid content in these carbonated drinks create small pores on the tooth enamel and results in increased susceptibility to cavity-causing microorganisms.

Brushing teeth immediately after drinking carbonated drinks erodes the enamel, weakens it and increases the risk of cavity formation.

White Bread

White bread is broken down to starch and finally to sugar in the mouth. It may stick in the pits and fissures on the tooth surface or in the gaps between teeth, causing bacterial attack and cavity formation.

Whole-wheat brown bread must be preferred over white bread.

Alcohol And Smoking

Alcohol dehydrates you and causes your mouth to go dry. Dry mouth is a breeding ground for all cavity forming bacteria and your chances of forming dental cavities increases multifold.

Smoking also causes dryness in the mouth leading to increased risk of dental cavities or decay.

Citrus Fruits

Citrus fruits are a rich source of vitamin C but they also contain high amounts of acid which is a risk factor for cavity formation.

You should mix them while taking food and must not forget to rinse carefully afterwards.

Sticky Foods Like Raisins

Sticky foods are worst for your teeth and a significant contributor to cavities.

While eating they stick to cervices present on your tooth surface and are difficult to remove. Cavity-causing bacteria accumulate, release acids, weakens enamel and forms cavities.

Other Factors That Play Role In Cavities Formation 

Choice Of Toothbrush

You might be brushing twice daily but with the wrong toothbrush. Selection of an appropriate toothbrush plays a very crucial role in removal of plaque and food debris.

Toothbrushes with more rounded bristles are soft to your teeth and are considered to be an ideal toothbrush to use.

Using a hard-bristled toothbrush may abrade the enamel and lead to dental abrasion, recession of gums and increased risk of developing cavities due to thinning of enamel.

A 2014 study concluded that electric toothbrushes may be more effective in reducing plaque and gingivitis than manual brushes in the short and long term. 

As effective plaque removal is crucial in achieving caries free teeth, an electric toothbrush with rotating heads must be your choice of toothbrush.

Correct Technique Of Brushing Teeth

Sometimes you brush your teeth daily twice and still get cavities. The reason behind this may be hidden in the toothbrushing technique you follow.

While daily brushing, we pay little attention to the technique involved in toothbrushing and therefore end up getting cavities.

Use gentle, short strokes to brush your front teeth and thoroughly clean your mouth without abrading the enamel.

Brush the outside surfaces as well as the back molars and upper areas of your chewing surfaces. Brush the inside surfaces of both top and bottom front teeth by flipping your toothbrush upside down.

Brush your tongue to get rid of any bacteria or plaque.

Toothpaste You Use Matters!

You might be following all oral hygiene routines and yet end up with a cavity. Unfortunately, your toothpaste might be the culprit.

High abrasive toothpastes abrade your enamel layer, thinning the enamel and increasing the chances of cavity formation multifold. 

To maximise the benefits of toothbrushing, you must choose a toothpaste which has a RDA value of 250 or less.

You should look for the ADA Seal of Acceptance while choosing your toothpaste or any teeth whitening products.

Fluoride toothpaste can greatly help achieve oral and dental health by strengthening the tooth enamel, making it more resistant to tooth decay. 

Fluoride reduces the amount of acid produced by the bacteria on your mouth. 

Structure Of Your Teeth (Teeth Morphology)

The structure of the teeth are different for different people. Some may have too many pits and fissures and grooves on the tooth surface while some may have gaps in between the teeth.

Morphology of teeth plays a decisive role in cavity formation. The food particles get stuck in these pits, fissures, grooves and gaps between the teeth, not possible to remove from brushing, resulting in plaque buildup, acid attacks on enamel by plaque bacteria and finally cavities formation.

Wisdom tooth or partially erupted tooth creates a favorable environment for the bacteria to get trapped between the crown and periodontal soft tissues causing inflammation and infection.

Choice Of Mouthwash

Therapeutic Mouthwashes contain ADA listed active ingredients such as fluoride, peroxide, essential oils, cetylpyridinium chloride, and chlorhexidine, preventing cavities from forming and naturally healing and reversing the formed cavity in its earliest stage.

Therapeutic mouthwashes, as the name suggests have therapeutic action and control dental conditions like gingivitis, tooth decay and periodontal diseases. They also help remove halitosis.

According to a research published in the journal of clinical medicine research, mouthwash containing chlorhexidine gluconate or cetylpyridinium chloride showed antimicrobial activity against most bacteria in the plaque biofilm.

Another study concluded that the chlorhexidine and cetylpyridinium chloride containing antiseptic mouthwashes had higher in-vitro antibacterial activity against streptococcus mutans, a bacteria found in the plaque biofilm.

Teeth Grinding (Bruxism)

Bruxism or teeth grinding over a long period of time wears down the enamel and increases the risk of dental cavity, further leading to pulp infection.

Medical Conditions like Sjogren Syndrome

Sjogren syndrome, a medical condition that causes dry mouth due to decreased salivary production, is often responsible for tooth infection.

In dry mouth, the saliva in the oral cavity is significantly decreased resulting in non-flushing of the plaque and other food debris.

The plaque accumulation increases resulting in increased bacterial growth leading to tooth infection or abscess.

Immunosuppressive Conditions

Conditions like HIV/AIDS, chemotherapy and other immunosuppressive conditions lead to increased risk of developing tooth cavity and tooth infection as the defence mechanism of the body is significantly compromised.

Genetic Causes such as Amelogenesis Imperfecta

Amelogenesis Imperfecta is a rare genetic disorder affecting the enamel formation, predisposing the enamel to wear down and finally leading to increased risk of cavity and tooth infection.

  1. Saliva Viscosity Matters!

Thickness of saliva or saliva viscosity matters a lot when it comes to cavities formation. 

You might be following all the daily good oral hygiene routine but still get cavities or tooth decay. Your saliva may have a role in it.

Viscous and thick saliva may not act as a natural cleaner of the oral cavity and thus increase the risk of cavities formation even after maintaining good oral hygiene.

The salivary thickness may be genetically influenced, or may be reduced due to some medical or oral conditions, or may be due to excessive smoking and alcohol consumption.


This blog post addressed the topic, “does eating sugar cause cavities”. We understood what research says, can you still get cavities if you don’t eat sugar, do cavities mean bad hygiene and why do you keep getting cavities even though you brush and floss. The article outlined eating habits that cause cavities and other factors that play a role in cavities formation. 

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQs): Does Eating Sugar Cause Cavities

Is a cavity a hole?

Yes! Dental Cavity or tooth cavity, is a hole that develops on the surface of the tooth due to loss of mineral content from the enamel, resulting from the repeated acid attack by the plaque bacteria.

How do you heal a cavity in 2 days?

The only way to heal a cavity in 2 days is to get a filling done at your dentist’s office. It takes almost an hour or less to fill a single cavity. 

In case of multiple cavities, the dentist might give you multiple appointments.

How many cavities is normal?

Having cavities is not normal and even one cavity indicates poor oral hygiene. According to few studies, the average number of cavities in a person varies from one to three.

Can a cavity heal on its own?

No, a cavity cannot heal or go away on its own without taking necessary prevention steps.

If the cavity is just in its initial stage where the white spot is visible on the tooth, it is the time to take preventive actions such as toothbrushing, mouth washing and flossing daily.

At stage one, when the white spot has just appeared, the cavity can be reversed with proper oral hygiene.

However, if ignored, the cavity will progress down the enamel surface, reach the dentin and may even progress to pulp to cause pain, sensitivity and even tooth loss.

Can You Brush Away A Cavity?

A cavity is a permanent damage of the enamel layer that needs to be repaired by using filling materials like composite or porcelain or an amalgam.

Once you have a cavity, it is not possible to brush it away. However, it can be filled and prevented from further damaging your tooth.

Other FAQs about Teeth cavities that you may be interested in.

Do oranges cause cavities?

Does filling a cavity hurt?

How can I heal a cavity without going to the dentist?


Park, Sohyun, et al. “Association of sugar-sweetened beverage intake during infancy with dental caries in 6-year-olds.” Clinical nutrition research 4.1 (2015): 9-17.

Marshall, Teresa A. “Preventing dental caries associated with sugar-sweetened beverages.” The Journal of the American Dental Association 144.10 (2013): 1148-1152.

Wilder, J.R., Kaste, L.M., Handler, A., Chapple-McGruder, T. and Rankin, K.M. (2016), Association between sugar-sweetened beverages and dental caries. J Public Health Dent, 76: 76-84.

The 8 Worst Foods for Your Teeth. (2016)

The Tooth Decay Process: How to Reverse It and Avoid a Cavity. (2018)

5 Amazingly Simple Things You Can Do to Prevent Cavities. (2017)

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