A Deeper Look at the Way Cavities Form

Smile Guy Close UpCavity formation involves a process and multiple elements. Sugar is just one of those elements. The process of tooth decay would not be without Streptococcus mutans. These are gram positive, cocci shaped bacteria which feed on sugar and produce lactic acid. This mix of germs and lactic acid inside your mouth combines with food debris, forming a biofilm that you probably know as plaque. While S. mutans are a part of the flora in your mouth, the fact that they cause cavities makes them dangerous to your dental health.

Almost Everyone is Infected

Diseases are sometimes either infectious or communicable. The flu is communicable, whereas the ebola virus (so prominent in the news lately) is infectious. Cavities, are both. This means that the germs are passed from one person to another in a wide variety of ways, but most often through affection, sharing utensils, or drinking from the same glass. There is a lucky 1 percent of the population who are actually immune to S. mutans, but the rest of us are sitting ducks from an early age. These crafty bacteria can even colonize in an infant’s mouth before they have teeth, by sitting in wait on their tongues. Once teeth begin to erupt, S. mutans go to work.

Colonies of Cavities

When you have a cavity, there are actually detectable levels of the microscopic bacteria on the infected tooth. Upon the formation of dental plaque, S. mutans can adhere to the now sticky surfaces of your tooth. S. mutans start to divide and produce small microcolonies. The more germs, the more plaque, and the more chance for more microcolonies to develop. The reproduction of bacteria becomes exponential and eventually, holes in your teeth are eaten away as the germs seek nourishment inside your dental pulp.


Calcagno Cosmetic and Family Dentistry offer expert services including teeth whitening, Six Month Smiles, Invisalign, root canals, and pediatric dentistry. To schedule a consultation, please call (507) 218-8936. Dr. Gilly Calcagno and Dr. Kara Heimer welcome and serve patients from Rochester, Red Wing, St. Charles, Winona, Farmington, Austin, and the surrounding communities.