Every Vancouver dentist near you likely spends much of their clinical time treating tooth cavities, despite most cavity treatments taking less than an hour to complete . This is because cavities are the most prevalent chronic health condition in the world; 44% of the global population has untreated cavities and 60%-90% of school-aged children and 100% of adults have had cavities . If your cavities have led to tooth loss, it’s time to get dental implants to restore your smile.
In Canada (and Vancouver), specifically:
- 5% of adults have untreated coronal cavities and as many as 95.9% have had coronal cavities before [3, 4].
- 9% of elementary-aged children have a history of cavities and 36.7% have untreated cavities .
- Among Indigenous residents, 85% of preschoolers, 7% of adolescents, and 100% of older adults have cavities .
- Vancouver residents (and others in the service area for any Vancouver dentist) have an elevated risk of developing tooth cavities, as fewer than 3% of residents have fluoridated tap water .
What Are Tooth Cavities?
Tooth cavities are areas of structural damage that present as holes in and through the surface of a tooth . They are the progressive and often entirely-preventable result of everyday behaviors and oversights in daily dental hygiene . For example, Drinking acidic beverages weakens the protective enamel of the tooth over time, while inadequate brushing allows cavity-causing bacteria to thrive and fails to remove the accumulated plaque that hardens into acidic, enamel-eroding tartar.
That said, different types of cavities develop under different conditions, progress at different speeds, and are exacerbated and accelerated by different contexts.
Types Of Cavities Treated By Vancouver Dentists
1. Coronal Cavities:
- The most common type of tooth cavity seen by any Vancouver dentist, slow-growing coronal cavities develop between and on the visible parts of teeth . They can be either “smooth surface” or “pit and fissure” cavities, with the former occurring between and on the sides of teeth while the latter develops exclusively on the chewing surfaces . In either case, unhealthy dietary and dental hygiene behaviors are the main risk factor for coronal cavity development; they erode the hard enamel and dentin of the tooth and foster bacterial growth.
2. Root cavities:
- Unlike coronal cavities, root cavities develop rapidly, with root exposure (resultant from age-, injury-, or gum-disease-related gum recession) as the most significant risk factor .
3. Recurrent Decay Cavities:
- Recurrent decay cavities are the consequence of plaque accumulation around dental fillings and crowns, as these areas can be challenging to adequately clean . Children are especially prone to recurrent decay cavities, with many children developing one within 6-12 months of initial treatment for a tooth cavity . Consequently, when searching for a new Vancouver dentist near you, it is important to find a Vancouver dentist who not only provides cavity treatment but preventive treatments that reduce the risk of these kinds of secondary cavities.
The Surprising Signs Of Tooth Cavity Formation
Tooth cavities progress through stages: First, acids erode the enamel; next, acids and bacteria penetrate the dentin; then, the dental pulp becomes exposed and vulnerable to infection; and finally, in some cases, bacteria go on to infiltrate the tissue surrounding the tooth, causing an abscess .
Considering this process, many people consider tooth sensitivity and pain to be the biggest signs that they have developed a cavity and should contact a Vancouver dentist for restorative cavity treatment.
Yet tooth sensitivity and pain are not the first symptoms of a tooth cavity; sensitivity indicates that the enamel is significantly eroded, while pain signals that at least the dentin — if not the dental pulp — is exposed . Rather, the true first signs of a cavity forming are visible demineralization — when a white spot forms where the enamel is weakening — and tartar deposits .
Moreover, bad breath and a bad taste in the mouth can be further signs that the balance between bacteria/plaque and fluoride/saliva is incorrect, creating the ideal conditions for cavities to form . At this (early) stage, the damage is reversible with dietary and dental hygiene changes as recommended by a professional Vancouver dentist near you.
Don’t Just Search For Any “Vancouver Dentist Near Me”
The best Vancouver dentist near you can (and should) do more than just treat existing cavities. A high-quality Vancouver dentist can offer a variety of active treatment options (depending on the type and stage of cavity development), as well as preventive care treatments and hygiene counseling for better at-home management.
Restorative Vs. Arresting Cavity Treatments:
The restorative treatment options for a cavity include fillings and crowns (for coronal and early-stage cavities) and root canals (for root cavities and severe cavities). These treatments remove the infection, deaden the nerve, and fill in and/or cover the holes in the hard surface of the tooth, thereby preventing acids and bacteria from re-entering the vulnerable areas of the tooth . Pulling the tooth may also be necessary when the damage caused by the cavity is too great.
A professional Vancouver dentist near you may also use silver diamine fluoride (SDF) treatments to arrest the progress of non-painful tooth cavities in the primary (baby) teeth of young children. Effective in just one to two treatments, SDF presents a more cost-effective solution than traditional restorative treatments by preventing cavities from getting any worse in teeth that will soon naturally fall out .
The Causes Of Tooth Cavity
Tooth cavities occur as a result of tooth decay. The causes of tooth decay are:
1. Plaque Formation
Plaque forms in your teeth when you clean your teeth improperly. Due to the stickiness of sugar and starch substances, they aren’t easy to clean. As a result, bacteria take the opportunity to feed on the sugar, causing plaque to form.
If you don’t clean the plaque on time, it will harden, resting over your gum line or under the area where your teeth originate. Called tartar at this stage, the hard plaque doesn’t fall away with adequate brushing. Instead, it protects bacteria and lets them make a home in your gum.
2. Plaque Invasion
The acid in the plaque works away at the mineral in your teeth. As a result, it erodes the enamel, which is the visible first layer of your teeth. As a result, tiny openings begin forming in your enamel. This is the first sign of a cavity.
Once a good amount of enamel has gone through erosion, acid and bacteria travel to the inner layer of your teeth. This part is called the dentin.
The inner layer doesn’t have the same hardening as the enamel. Acid causes severe damage to it. The dentin is connected to the nerve of the tooth, and when it’s under attack, the nerve feels pain.
The march continues
As the dentin is destroyed, the bacteria and acid move further inside. Finally, they reach the pulp, which has the nerve and the blood vessels. The pulp starts swelling due to the bacteria. A swollen pulp doesn’t have enough space inside your teeth. As a result, the nerve experiences pressure, causing massive pain. Eventually, the pain may extend to the bone of the teeth.
What increases the risk of tooth cavities?
As long as you have teeth, you have a chance of getting cavities. However, certain neglections might lead to tooth cavities over others.
1. Lack Of Fluoride
Fluoride is good for preventing cavities. Additionally, teeth cavity at an earlier stage can be reserved with enough fluoride supply. You will generally find fluoride in public water. Companies also include fluoride in paste and mouth rinsers. Only bottled water seems to suffer from lack of it.
2. Dry mouth
The saliva in your mouth is vital for breaking down and washing away the food. Saliva also puts up a good fight against bacterial acid. Unfortunately, some people suffer from dry mouth due to medication and medical conditions.
3. Eating disorder
Vomiting frequently can lead to stomach acid eroding the tooth enamel. It can also interfere with saliva production. They are eating disorders such as Anorexia can lead to tooth cavities.
4. Location of the tooth
In most people, tooth cavities occur in the teeth on the back of the mouth. There are too many pits, grooves, and roots between the teeth. As a result, brushes and rinsers have difficulty reaching the tooth. Since you can’t clean it properly, cavities occur.
Preventive Cavity Treatments:
Just over two-thirds of BC residents have a dentist (below the 80% national dentist usage rate) and many residents express a significant preference for only seeking dental care for emergencies [17, 3, 4]. Nevertheless, the key to minimizing the financial costs, physical pain, and risk of tooth loss associated with tooth cavities is regular, professional dental care involving both preventive treatment and hygiene counseling.
For example, the professional application of fluoride varnish or dental sealant by a qualified Vancouver dentist can dramatically reduce the risk of developing tooth cavities, especially as a result of recurrent decay . Likewise, regular dental checkups and cleanings can further reduce the risk of cavity development.