One of the top contributors to the loss of teeth is decay or destruction of tooth enamel (the hard, outer layer of teeth). Tooth decay occurs when plaque (a sticky film of bacteria) forms on the teeth. When a person eats or drinks food that contains sugar, the bacteria produce acids that attack the tooth enamel. Plaque also keeps these acids in constant contact with teeth, causing the enamel to break down, cavities to form, and decay.

Children and teens are often most affected by tooth decay. In Canada, an estimated 2.26 million school days are missed annually due to dental-related illness, most related to tooth decay. It also accounts for one-third of all day surgeries performed on children between the ages of one and five.

Top contributors to tooth decay

Top Contributors to Tooth Decay

1. Sticky candies containing sugar
Sugar encourages the production of acid that leads to the destruction of enamel. Sugar from caramel candies, jelly beans, and gummy bears is harder to wash away with saliva. Cookies, cakes, and other desserts also contain high amounts of sugar.

2. Starchy, refined carbohydrates
Starches made from white flour are simple carbohydrates that stay longer in the mouth and break down into simple sugars. Bacteria feed on these sugars and produce acid that causes tooth decay. Some food choices with these carbs include chips, bread, pasta, and crackers.

3. Carbonated soft drinks
These are hazards to the teeth because they contain a high amount of sugar plus phosphorous and carbonates, which wear away enamel.

4. Fruit juice
While fruits contain fibre, they also have sugar and acid. Rinse with water after eating fruit or drinking juice, and wait at least 20 minutes to brush teeth.

Top Contributors to Tooth Decay

5. Acidic foods
These acid-rich items include lemons, oranges, grapefruit, meat, dairy products, legumes, grains, nuts, and eggs. Again, “swish and swallow” (or spit) after eating to remove acid from teeth.

Prevent tooth decay:

  • Brush teeth twice a day and floss daily.
  • When consuming carbonated drinks and fruit juices, use a straw to sustain less contact with teeth and enamel.
  • Drink water after meals. Water helps rinse sugar and acid. It is also good for the body.
  • Skip foods that contribute to decay and choose ones rich in calcium (which helps form strong teeth and bones), and vitamin D (which the body needs to absorb calcium).
  • Use fluoride toothpaste and mouthwash.
  • Visit your dentist for regular cleanings and to spot early signs of decay.

Top Contributors to Tooth Decay

Protect your smile; our dentists at the Dental and Denture Office are here to help! Call us: (905) 815-8208 or send an email to