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Some people dread going to the dentist because they are afraid they will be told they have a cavity. But what is a cavity, exactly, and how does it form? If you are armed with this knowledge, you will be better able to avoid cavities in your own smile.

A cavity is a hole in your tooth enamel. If deep enough, it can expose the inner portion of your tooth, where the soft tissues and nerve endings are. This can lead to tooth pain, decay or infection. If left long enough, a large cavity can even lead to tooth failure.

A cavity can form from a tooth being chipped or cracked, but primarily cavities occur due to acid erosion. This comes as a surprise to some, as they associate sugar with cavity formation. So which is it? Acid or sugar? The answer is, both.

There are bacteria that live in your mouth. These bacteria feed on sugars from leftover food particles in your mouth. They then create an acidic byproduct, which coats the teeth and begins to erode the enamel. Acids from foods can erode the enamel directly, as well.

Practical application of this knowledge would be to limit both your sugars and acids, and to clean your mouth thoroughly on days when you decide to indulge.

For more information, call Lansdowne Dental Arts in Leesburg, Virginia, at 703-858-5990. Dr. Jun H Chung and our team are happy to help you!