The Blame Game: Is sugar the only reason for tooth decay?


Written by Dr Amrita Jain

Medically reviewed by  Dr. Vidhi Bhanushali Kabade BDS, TCC

Last updated May 3, 2024

Written by Dr Amrita Jain

Medically reviewed by  Dr. Vidhi Bhanushali Kabade BDS, TCC

Last updated May 3, 2024

Did you know cocoa can actually prevent tooth decay? Yes! dark chocolate actually prevents cavities. Also studies show people who do not consume chocolates and sweets also fall prey to tooth cavities. Why is this so? That’s because sugar isn’t the only culprit. Most people, if they want to take care of their teeth, try to avoid chocolates and other foods high in sugar like cakes, biscuits or soda drinks. While this is definitely a good practice, it may not be enough. Sugar rightly takes a lot of the blame for tooth decay, but several other factors contribute to the cavities on your teeth! Read on to know about how to avoid tooth decay comprehensively. While sugar is a significant contributor to tooth decay, it is not the sole reason for the development of cavities. Tooth decay is a multifactorial process influenced by various factors, including oral hygiene, diet, bacterial activity, and individual susceptibility.

Aggressive brushing

Stop Brushing the wrong way, seriously

You may be surprised if you develop cavities even if you brush your teeth twice a day. While this can be disappointing, it’s not implausible- you may not be using the right technique! Make sure that your toothbrush is at a 45-degree to your teeth. Brush gently in downward, sweeping motions, directing the toothbrush away from your gums. Make sure you don’t brush your teeth horizontally as this will just spread the bacteria and food debris from in between your gums over the surface of your teeth

Brushing with the right technique is just as important as brushing twice a day- there’s really no point to brushing if you’re doing it wrong. Follow up your brushing with flossing, tongue cleaning and a mouthwash!

Using the right tools, the right way

Make sure that you properly wet everything you put in your mouth! Change your toothbrush every 3 months. Longer than that and the frayed bristles on your brush render the act of brushing useless. Make sure your toothbrush doesn’t touch anyone else’s (even your partner’s) and store it in such a way that it’s upright and can dry completely between wash

Try not to use toothpicks at all, and repeated use of toothpicks, floss picks or floss is a complete no-no, for obvious reasons

The power of Fluoride

Fluoride has been proven to help re-mineralize your teeth after the acid released by bacteria in your mouth while breaking down sugar demineralizes them. It’s important to use fluoride toothpaste and mouthwashes to avoid getting cavities; however, make sure the water you drink doesn’t have too much fluoride! Ingesting too much fluoride can cause dental and skeletal fluorosis. Fortunately, a simple google search can tell you the fluoride levels of water in your area. Make sure you drink government-provided or approved water only!

The Villainy of Gum Disease

Gum disease causes recession or falling back of the gum line. If your teeth appear longer or the roots of your teeth are visible, you are at greater risk of developing tooth decay. Gum disease is the kind of disease that will end up destroying all the components of your mouth, and do this in a really ugly way. Be proactive and visit your dentist for regular checks ups to avoid this!

woman toothache standing with chocolate in hand

Sugar isn’t the only culprit

If you’re staying away from conventionally sweet foods to protect your teeth, you may have to expand your radius a bit. Bread can cause tooth decay too, as sugar is formed as your saliva breaks it down. While being broken down, bread forms a paste that sticks to your teeth and isn’t good for your teeth. The same is true for potato chips and other starchy food. Other foods that contribute to demineralization of teeth are juices, dried fruit, vinegar, and popcorn. Remember anything sticking to your teeth, gives more time for the bacteria to ferment the food and release acids causing tooth cavities. And once the cavities start to form its consequences are severe if not acted upon at the right time. So avoid foods that stick to your teeth and remember to always rinse your mouth with water after meals to prevent the onset of tooth cavities in the first place.

Tweaking your lifestyle

A few tweaks in your lifestyle is all that you need to avoid tooth decay. Quitting smoking is a major one. Smoking causes dry mouth and makes you prone to developing tooth decay. Try consuming fresh fruit and vegetables, eating more cheese and dairy products, and chewing sugarless chewing gum. These will help fortify your teeth against bacteria and their acids!


Sometimes, you can do everything right and still wind up with cavities. Some people are genetically predisposed to having cavities- this may be the case if your teeth have been pitted, striated, small or abnormally yellow your whole life. Visit your dentist if you think your bad teeth are due to a genetic issue- but don’t use this as an excuse, genetic disorders that affect the mouth are rare and you still need to take good care of your teeth!

If you’re one of those people who can’t live without bread or a glass of juice in the morning, don’t be disheartened. There’s no way around learning the right brushing technique or taking care of your brush; however, it’s important to know that ‘moderation’ is a key word when it comes to lifestyle changes. You can have all the fun you want and still take care of your teeth!


  • Sugar consumption is not the only culprit behind bad teeth.
  • Brushing with the right technique is just as important as brushing twice a day to prevent cavities.
  • It’s important to take care of your toothbrush and never reuse floss or floss picks.
  • Fluoride products help fortify your teeth.
  • Gum disease makes you more prone to cavities.
  • Foods other than sugar contribute to tooth decay too!
  • Quit smoking to avoid dry mouth.
Was this article helpful?

scanO (formerly DentalDost)

Stay Informed, Smile On!

Author Bio: Dr. Amrita Jain is a practicing dental surgeon since 4 years. She completed her B.D.S in 2016 and was has been a rank holder throughout her course. She suggests “Holistic dentistry is the best dentistry”. Her treatment line follows a conservative pattern which means saving a tooth is of utmost priority and preventing your teeth from getting decayed rather than curing it with a root canal treatment. She inculcates the same while consulting her patients. Apart from her interest in clinical practice, she has developed interest in research and writing over a period of time. She states “It is my clinical experience that motivates me to write and spread dental awareness”. Her articles are well researched with a combination of technical knowledge and clinical experience.

You May Also Like…


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *