What’s really causing my cavities?

Side by side of a mouth with the left side having cavities and the right not

Cavities have long been attributed to the consumption of sugary treats and poor oral hygiene. While these factors undoubtedly play a role, there’s a culprit beneath the surface that often goes unnoticed in mainstream discussions—the intricate interplay between bacteria and oral health. Embracing an integrative and biological dental standpoint allows us to delve deeper into the multifaceted causes of cavities and adopt a comprehensive approach to prevention and treatment.


One of the less-explored dimensions of cavity formation is the pervasive influence of bacteria within the oral microbiome. Our mouths are teeming with a diverse array of bacteria, both beneficial and harmful. Streptococcus mutans, in particular, has earned notoriety for its role in initiating the cascade leading to cavities. These bacteria metabolize sugars from our diets, producing acids that erode tooth enamel and create an environment conducive to cavity formation.

Balancing the Oral Microbiome

Maintaining a balanced oral microbiome, rather than merely targeting harmful bacteria, encourages cultivating a diverse and resilient microbial community. Practices such as regular flossing, remineralizing toothpaste, probiotic use, and a diet rich in prebiotics can foster an environment where beneficial bacteria thrive, creating a natural defense against cavity-causing microbes.

Dietary Influences + Oral pH

Processed foods, high in refined carbohydrates and sugars and lacking essential nutrients, can compromise overall oral health and effect the pH of the mouth. A diet rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants not only supports the body’s immune system but also contributes to the strength and resilience of teeth. The maintenance of a balanced pH to create an inhospitable environment for bacteria. Regular consumption of acidic foods and beverages, coupled with poor saliva flow, can tip the pH scale towards acidity, providing a breeding ground for cavity-causing bacteria.

Mouth-Body Connection

Chronic stress, inadequate sleep, and systemic health conditions can compromise the immune system, making the body more susceptible to bacterial invasion. Addressing these factors contributes not only to better oral health but also to the prevention of cavities from a systemic perspective.

Mouth Breathing

Mouth breathing, often overlooked in traditional discussions, can significantly contribute to the development of cavities. When individuals habitually breathe through their mouths, especially during sleep, it leads to a reduction in saliva production. Saliva plays a crucial role in maintaining a balanced oral environment by neutralizing acids and promoting the remineralization of tooth enamel. In the absence of adequate saliva flow, the risk of cavity formation increases, as the protective mechanisms against bacterial onslaught become compromised. Often we recommend Myofunctional Therapy to bring awareness of breathing patterns and address mouth breathing through techniques and interventions that promote nasal breathing, ultimately supporting the body’s natural defense mechanisms against cavities.

By acknowledging the multifaceted influences on cavities, from the oral microbiome to dietary habits, mouth breathing, and overall well-being, we pave the way for a more comprehensive and effective approach to prevention and treatment. Embracing the integrative views of oral health not only benefits our teeth but contributes to the broader landscape of our health and vitality.