Your tooth enamel is the hard outer layer that protects your teeth. However, some people have underdeveloped tooth enamel, a condition called enamel hypoplasia. This enamel defect occurs while the teeth are still developing.
Enamel hypoplasia results in thin enamel that is weak, improperly formed or missing, leaving the teeth more vulnerable to tooth decay.
What Causes Enamel Hypoplasia?
Enamel hypoplasia can be either hereditary or environmental. When the enamel is developing in the mouth, the process can be disrupted leaving areas of the enamel weaker. The visual evidence of this disruption can manifest as white spots, brown stains, pits, or grooves on the outer surface of the teeth.
Hereditary factor enamel dysplasia is caused by a genetic defect that impacts the formation of the teeth in the mouth. It can affect a small region of a single tooth or multiple teeth in more serious cases.
Environmental factor enamel dysplasia can be caused by such things as: premature birth, poor nutrition during pregnancy or infancy, bacterial and viral infections during pregnancy or infancy, exposure to certain substances during pregnancy or infancy, and trauma to newly developing teeth and mouth.
Enamel hypoplasia can affect both baby teeth and permanent teeth.
Treating Enamel Hypoplasia
In addition to the visual symptoms, an individual with enamel hypoplasia may experience sensitivity to hot and cold foods, irregular wearing of the teeth, susceptibility to acid in food and drinks, and retention of harmful bacteria.
It is important to diagnose this condition at a young age, which is why dentists encourage families to see a dentist between the time children’s first teeth erupt and their first birthdays. While treatment depends on how severe the enamel hypoplasia is, the goal of treatment is to prevent tooth decay, preserve the tooth structure and bite, and keep teeth looking their best. Cosmetic adjustments such as teeth whitening may be used for a discolored tooth. Sealants can improve tooth sensitivity, and fillings are used to treat cavities. Crowns may also be used in more serious cases.
Preventing Enamel Hypoplasia
Hereditary enamel hypoplasia cannot be prevented, but if you are pregnant or have an infant, there are things you can do to prevent soft teeth caused by environmental factors.
- Add supplements of vitamin A or D to your diet.
- Increase your consumption of green, leafy vegetables.
- Drink milk.