Prevention First Blog – 3

Diet, food and cavities – Part I

In our last “Prevention first” article we focused on role of Fluoride. This week we will look at Diet, Food in relation to Cavities.

Cavities are formed when our own bacteria in the mouth breaks down carbohydrates from our diet into end products that are acidic in nature. This acidic environment leads to leaching of minerals that make up the enamel, protective layer of tooth, thereby causing cavities.  Breakdown of food to cause cavities is only half the story. The other half revolves around 700 or so bacterial species that thrive in our mouth. The makeup of this pool can also affect cavities, I will discuss that in a future article.

To understand the role of food/diet let us get a bit technical. Our mouth at baseline has neutral Ph of 7.4 that promotes good oral health. When we eat any meal, even healthy, the Ph balance shifts to more acidic. It takes about 2 hours for the mouth to regain back its neutral Ph balance. The frequency of consumption of food matters. More frequent meals/snacking do not give a chance for the mouth to get back to normal Ph. Longer the Ph remains acidic, more “leaching” of minerals in enamel occur. 

Food particles that remain in mouth also are broken down by bacteria in our mouth and converted to acidic byproducts. Thus, timing of consumption matters. Eating meals closer to bedtime means food particles can stay in overnight. The easy strategy is to rinse mouth with water after each meal and brush & floss at night to avoid retaining food in the mouth. Chewing on food helps produce natural saliva which washes down the food thereby reducing food particles in mouth naturally.  

Cavities take time to form based. Usually first event that takes place is a line of white band very close to gum line, called band of decalcification. This band progressively turns yellow to orange to shades of brown and finally black cavity lesions of the tooth.  A trained eye of dentist can catch this subtle changes.

When caught in earlier stages, a diet modification, paying more close attention to brushing, flossing and using aids like mouth washes and therapeutic prescription dentifrices may delay or keep the cavities at bay. If deemed necessary, cavity arresting procedures should be intervened before planning on “fill and drill” techniques.  Ask your dentist what treatment strategy would be best for your child.

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Dr. Naru Baliga, DMD is Owner of New Smiles Kids Dentistry, Damascus, MD. A newly opened pediatric dental practice in heart of Damascus. Dr. Baliga is an experienced board certified pediatric dentist. Her practice uses latest technology like Laser dentistry for virtually painless dentistry, digital x-rays to reduce exposure, intra-oral cameras for oral health education, sedation & Hospital dentistry for child’s comfort. She is accepting new patients up to age of 18 yrs. The office accepts most PPO plans. You can reach her office at or visit