Friday, June 14, 2024
HomeOral Health & Hygiene25 Things That Make You More Likely To Get Cavities

25 Things That Make You More Likely To Get Cavities

Many people come into the dental school and tell us things like, “I just have bad teeth” and “My parents and grandparents all had soft teeth – and my teeth are soft too, so I get lots of cavities.”

Cavity In a ToothWhile it may be true that some people do have teeth that are more susceptible to cavities, there is usually another reason that these people have cavities.

As dentists, we can remove the tooth decay and make your tooth look shiny and new again, but we can’t prevent you from getting cavities in the future – that’s up to you.

The tooth pictured probably doesn’t look too glamorous.  Since most people don’t see what their dentist sees, I thought I’d put this picture up so you can see what an extensive cavity looks like.

If you’ve had a lot of cavities and want to know why, the following list just might give you some answers!

25 Risk Factors for Getting Cavities

1 – Cavities

I listed cavities first because if you’ve had cavities in the past, that’s usually one of the best predictors of whether or not you’ll get cavities in the future.  It makes sense that if you already have lots of cavities, that you’re more likely to keep getting cavities until you make some changes.

Also, if you have white spots on some of your teeth that have recently appeared, that could be the sign of a beginning cavity, which also puts you at risk for getting a cavity.

2 – Having Lots of Cavity-Causing Bacteria

There are millions of little bacteria in your mouth that eat your food every time you eat.  They make acid and smear it on your teeth.  The acid eats away at your tooth until a cavity develops.

Needless to say, if you have an abundant amount of cavity-causing bacteria in your mouth, you’re at a high risk for getting a cavity.

3 – Eating Sugar Frequently

If you eat sugar a lot, you give the bacteria exactly what it wants to eat: fermentable carbohydrates.  The more often you feed them, the more cavity-causing acid that they will produce.

Learn more about What Happens In Your Mouth Every Time You Eat or Drink.

4 – Bad Crowns and/or Fillings

If you have a poor quality filling or crown in your mouth, it may actually cause you to get a cavity by allowing plaque to hang out where you can’t reach it with routine brushing and flossing.

5 – Bad Oral Hygiene

If you don’t brush away the bacteria often, you will allow them to grow and destroy your teeth.

6 – High Acidic Foods Intake

Eating or drinking acidic foods can eat away at the hard, outer layer of your teeth known as the enamel.  Since the enamel is the layer of your teeth that is most resistant to cavities, if you wear it down, you will be putting yourself at risk for cavities.

Learn more about acidic drinks in the article,  Nine Drinks that Can Dissolve Your Teeth.

Another source of acid in your mouth is gastric reflux or even vomiting intentionally, which occurs in those with bulimia.

7 – Not Getting Enough Fluoride

Fluoride makes the enamel of your teeth stronger.  You can get it by brushing your teeth longer or using a fluoride mouthwash.

Curious about how fluoride works?  Learn about the three ways fluoride protects your teeth.

8 – Nursing Too Long (Bottle and Breast)

If you weren’t weaned from the breast or bottle until you were a toddler, this could have put you at a higher risk for getting cavities.  Most research points to the bottle, but I have heard conflicting reports regarding prolonged breastfeeding.

9 – Cavities Under Fillings

Getting a cavity under a filling means that there was a problem with the filling (age, done incorrectly, fractured, etc.) or that you weren’t taking very good care of the filling.  Either way, if you get a cavity under a filling, it puts  you at high risk for getting cavities in other teeth.

10 – Bad Family Dental Health

If your family has bad dental health, chances are that you will as well.  This could be related to lack of oral hygiene being taught in the home, genetic abnormalities in the teeth, or high numbers of the bad bacteria in your mouth.

11 – Exposed Root Surfaces

Receding gums will expose the root of the tooth, which does not have a protective enamel covering.  Consequently, the dentin that makes up the roots of your teeth dissolves at a higher pH than the enamel.  That means that weak acids that wouldn’t affect your enamel can eat away at the roots of your teeth and cause a cavity.

12 – Defect In Your Enamel

If you have a defect in your enamel, it could make you more susceptible to cavities.  Some examples might be enamel that didn’t form correctly, congenital defects like amelogenesis imperfecta, or a defect in enamel formation that can happen to a permanent tooth when its corresponding baby tooth gets knocked out.

13 – Having a Disability

If you have a disability, it can be more difficult for you to take care of your teeth.  Also, many caregivers may not pay very much attention to the oral hygiene of those under their care.

14 – Dry Mouth

When you don’t have enough saliva in your mouth, it is known as dry mouth or xerostomia.  Saliva helps your teeth in several ways.  If you suffer from dry mouth, your dentist may be able to help by prescribing you medication to help increase your salivary flow.

Are you taking one of these 348 medications that cause dry mouth?

15 – Genetic Abnormality of Your Teeth

The anatomy of a tooth can vary greatly.  Some people have deeper grooves in their biting surface that are hard to clean.  Some people’s enamel may not completely cover the whole tooth.  This can create pockets where bacteria can hide out and cause cavities.

There are many other genetic abnormalities that can affect the teeth, such as localized microdontia, which can make some teeth smaller than others and possibly make them harder to clean.

16 – Having Lots of Large Fillings

Many large fillings can put you at risk for developing cavities.  Having lots of large fillings increases the amount of tooth:filling interfaces that are present in your mouth.  If bacteria get in between the filling and the tooth, they can be nearly impossible to clean out and can cause cavities.

17 – Chemotherapy and Radiation Treatment

Having chemotherapy or radiation treatment in the head and neck area can reduce salivary flow and cause other oral problems which increase the risk of getting a cavity.

18 – Eating Disorders

Eating disorders can increase the risk of a cavity in a couple of ways.  Those with eating disorders tend to not have a very balanced diet, which may contribute to cavities.  Also, bulimics bathe their teeth in acid each time they purge.  This wears away the tough enamel surface of the tooth which makes the tooth mores susceptible to cavities.

19 – Drug and/or Alcohol Abuse

Those that abuse drugs and/or alcohol put themselves at a greater risk for developing cavities.

Take a look at what drug abuse can do to your teeth.

20 – Irregular Dental Care

By not going to the dentist regularly, you avoid learning about the condition of your mouth.  The dentist can point out small problems before they turn into cavities.  By avoiding your checkups, you lose out on the opportunity to take care of small problems before they become big.

21 – Not Knowing What Plaque Is

Many people don’t know what plaque is.  If you don’t know what’s happening inside of your mouth, you probably won’t do anything about it.

Avoid this risk factor by reading: What Every Human Needs to Know About Plaque and How Plaque Disclosing Tablets Can Help You Brush Better.

22 – Not Knowing How to Remove Plaque

Even if you know what plaque is, if you’re not removing it then you will probably end up getting some cavities.

Learn about these 12 Weapons of Plaque Destruction.

23 – Being Poor

People with a lower socioeconomic status tend to get more tooth decay.  There are exceptions to this rule, but this is one of the main reasons that so many states provide free dental care to low-income children.  Unfortunately, these programs haven’t eliminated the gap in dental health between the rich and the poor, and many poor parents simply don’t find the time to take their kids to the dentist.

Interestingly, our computer software at my dental school tells us to ask each patient if they have a “low socioeconomic status.”  It can be an awkward question, and almost everyone skips over it.

24 – Dental Anxiety

If you have a dental phobia, chances are that you will neglect getting dental work done.  If you want to try to understand your dental phobia, take a look at these 15 common reasons people are scared of the dentist.

25 – Braces

Although braces can straighten your teeth and make them look great, they do increase the risk of getting cavities.  Braces make it harder to brush your teeth and make it nearly impossible to floss.  In order to floss with braces, you have to use a floss threader to get under the wire – I know I didn’t do that when I was a teenager!

I hope you enjoyed the list and it helped you pinpoint the cause(s) of your cavities.  I compiled the above list from my own experience as well as information from the following textbooks:

Do You Have a Lot of Cavities?

Did anything on this list ring a bell for you?  Although I tried to include everything I could think of that would cause cavities, I may have missed something.  I’d love to hear about what you think is causing your cavities whether it’s on the list or not.  Feel free to leave a comment in the comments section below.

Thanks for reading!



  1. I’ve heard that if you were younger and ran a lot of high fevers that it could make you more prone to having tooth decay. Is this true?

  2. The dentist says I have a cavity in my filling, not between the filling and the tooth; on top of my filling. Is that possible??? I have white fillings not the old silver ones.

  3. I didn’t know that saliva helped your teeth. I knew that people needed to soak their dentures in a solution, but not that teeth needed to stay moist as well. It makes sense now that I think of it. I’ve also heard that a diet high in unrefined grains like white bread put you at a higher risk for cavities, but I’ll have to clarify with my family dentist next time I’m in.

  4. This is some great information on risk factors for cavities. I have never had a cavity and most people in my family haven’t either. However, my cousin who had never had a cavity before started dating a guy that had cavities and now she’s gotten her first one. She’s convinced that she “caught” cavities from him. Do you know if it’s possible to get cavities from kissing someone with cavities?

    • I’m 13, but I received my first root canal on my front teeth when I was 9, and my second next to my front teeth when I was 11. I was recently told that if I got another cavity, I would lose my other front teeth to another root canal. I do not have crowns done yet, but I can say, I have EXTREMELY soft teeth. Whenever I eat, I need to rinse and do all this stuff. My teeth is already suffering from at least one filling on EVERY SINGLE TOOTH and my front teeth had been redone, had huge, fillings on it. The fillings are already to my roots so I would need to have it root canals. NEVER GIVE UP! HMainahart, you suffer the same problems as me. I have come to conclusions that my teeth will never be perfect, and that I will need a root canal on my front. The most I can do is prevent, or reduce my cavities. I’m only 13, lost hope, but hearing how many others suffer like me, I have faith that my new best friend is dental implants. If all else turns bad, you can always live off writing books. Keep in touch, my Instagram name is ” Kunvoi” and my KIK is Amaryllis_Amaur. You are not alone!

  5. I went to a dentist who said that I had to have fillings due to the abrasions I caused to my teeth, so I had to pay them for the filling out of my own pocket because of their diagnosis since they know that insurance will not cover it. I am looking more into it now, but I feel that insurance should be able to cover for my fillings. we’ll see. what is your input on this?

  6. Thanks for the helpful information on how people get cavities. Hopefully by knowing the bad things I can avoid them and not get any cavities. I didn’t know that high acidic foods would damage your teeth. I will have to be more careful!

  7. This is some great information, and I appreciate your point that dry mouth can cause cavities. I’ve noticed recently that my mouth is dry a lot of the time, and I didn’t realize that this could actually lead to tooth decay! I’ll definitely look into visiting a dentist to see if I can get that taken care of. Thanks for the great post!

  8. I found this an odd article, because it started out with “we can’t prevent you from getting cavities in the future – that’s up to you.” and then at least 14 of the things on the list really aren’t up to you. I have no button I can press to stop being disabled, nor to not have dentinogenesis imperfecta, nor can I snap my fingers and decide I’d rather not be poor. Others seemed at first glance as if there were something in my control. I was curious about numbers 4 & 9 (somewhat similar, one the cause, the other the effect), and thought I’d look up what I could do so I don’t fall into “not taking very good care of the filling”. So I looked up “Taking care of a filling” and the top 25 answers (yours may vary by geography and other factors) and ALL 25 only covered the first few hours or days – letting it set, not chewing the anaesthetised part of the mouth, that kind of thing. So what directions might “taking good care of a filling” include?

    Similarly, I rely on my dentist to be the one who can tell if I have problems under a filling. I can’t see in there, I can’t feel anything in there until things have progressed. I don’t have a home x-ray kit…I don’t know how this is up to me. And since I arrived at this site because I had Googled how to tell if my fillings have problems (because the dentist didn’t notice the hole in the filling 2 weeks ago at my check up where I said I had sensitivity in the tooth), that’s pretty circular.

    So what is the patient part in this? How do you know if you have trouble brewing under or around a filling?

  9. Interesting article – I learned why I have had many cavities. I grow up in a poor family (23) having irregular dental care (20) and low knowledge about plaque (21) and about removing plaque (22) combined with bad family dental health (10) – all things lead to lots of cavities (1). Same factors were later leading to cavities under my fillings (9) resulting in the lots of large fillings (16) I have today. And now I am caught in a circle getting new cavities from gaps between tooth and filling because of large amounts of tooth/filling interfaces – and the fillings are just getting larger and larger

  10. I just went to the dentist and he states that I have four more cavites. I just had a few filled 6 months ago and here I go again. He said to start brushing with fluoride toothpaste which he gave me. I’m hesitant to use it due to data that I have read. I do brush very well so don’t understand all of these cavities that are occuring at each 6 month check up. I drink soda pop but no more then anyone else. So, I’m worried about the flouride toothpaste, cavities.
    Don’t want to lose any more teeth. Any ideas.

  11. I am 78 had 5 teeth pulled in my life and 4 fillings . 1 root canal 2 crowns. That’s it. Visit dentist about every 3 years . Healthy. Now a month ago I chipped front tooth. Went in got it filled. They found 4 more small cavities in my 4 front teeth. They have been hurting for 9 days now. And after having a filling checked thursday, I have started that next day to have too much saliva. 3 days now and my front tooth hurts. I think my bite is off as he added too much fill to bottom corner of. Teeth. But what the heck I am almost drooling. Infection?

  12. My daughter is 16 and took her to her routine dental visit. Apparantly she has 18 cavities. I don’t understand how this could even happen. I have always has terrible teeth and nothing but issues. However I have never heard of someone having 18 cavities in their mouth.

    • I have 9 this last visit, I eat healthy and clean the teeth but I have a long term illness that makes me acidic and contributes to this. does your daughter have underlying health issues?

  13. I have extremely weak teeth due to celiac disease, low bone density and genetic factors. As such the enamel is poorly developed and I get constant cavities despite excellent oral hygiene including use of mouthwashes, special high fluoride toothpaste etc. It’s a bloody joke. Already have about 10-15 fillings but need about 5 more apparently according to the new dentist! And this is after hardly eating sugar ever and drinking just water! I think I got very unlucky.


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