Your child’s adult teeth are designed to last a lifetime. With the proper care, however, there are many factors that can negatively affect their dental health. A little-known challenge that some children face is hypomineralisation, often referred to as “chalky teeth”.
Most parents have never heard of this condition even though 1 in 6 children suffer from it. That accounts for approximately 15 to 20% of all children. This is a significant condition to watch for as it can affect your child’s dental health well into adulthood if not treated quickly. Here is everything you need to know about chalky teeth.
What is hypomineralisation?
Chalky teeth tend to affect the tooth enamel of the molars but can also affect all teeth. It develops when the molars contain fewer minerals, hence the term “hypomineralisation”. The term ‘chalky teeth’ has become the common term because the teeth become softer, with a chalk-like feel and consistency.
As mentioned, the condition can affect as many as 20% of children. The condition can vary in seriousness from mild to severe. It is not related to decay per se but can make teeth more vulnerable to damage.
Although there is no one cause of chalky teeth, like many dental conditions, it is believed to be caused by both hereditary and environmental factors, namely poor nutrition.
What are the symptoms of chalky teeth?
Chalky teeth are prone to breaking down, which makes them more susceptible to cavities. Decay will break down teeth with hypomineralisation faster because the condition weakens teeth. Unfortunately with chalky teeth, decay is not at the root of the breakdown. Instead, it occurs with or without plaque or bacteria.
The adult molars which erupt by the age of 6 or 7 are the teeth most commonly affected. The main signs and symptoms of chalky teeth include:
- Tooth discolouration that is creamy, yellowish or brown
- Painful or sensitive teeth
- “Crumbly” teeth
How are chalky teeth diagnosed?
Chalky teeth can be diagnosed by your child’s dentist with a full examination. In some cases, they might take X-rays. They will discuss your child’s medical and family history to shed light on possible causes as well as to help rule out other conditions that could be affecting your child’s tooth enamel.
What are the risks without treatment?
As you might imagine, if left untreated, the rapid breakdown of your child’s teeth will continue. This will cause serious issues, not to mention pain and sensitivity. Worst case scenarios can include nerve involvement, infection, abscess, and potential tooth loss.
What treatments are available for chalky teeth?
The type of treatment required will depend on the teeth involved as treatments consider the position of the teeth and the amount of damage done.
Front teeth usually require treatment for sensitivity, poor appearance, and surface roughness and breakdown. The key is to find the proper balance of treatments that will repair damage and not cause further issues. For example, in the case of severe discolouration of adult teeth, we might recommend a whitening treatment to help bring teeth back to a more natural colour.
In cases where sensitivity is involved however, we will treat the sensitivity first as whitening can aggravate sensitivity. Fluoride varnish can also be used to help decrease sensitivity.
Other cosmetic treatments, such as resin infiltrants, might help improve appearance but can also lead to damage. Therefore, a thin layer of white filling is ideal, as this will provide support to thicken the tooth while helping improve the appearance. White fillings will fill-in breakdown and hide discolouration. However, they will require replacement over time.
Sensitivity is a common issue for back teeth, as well as decay and breakdown. A common treatment for back teeth might include fissure sealant to protect the natural grooves in the teeth. This is ideal in mild cases.
Again, white fillings can be used to repair any damage. In the case of decay, it will be removed and then the white fillings will be added. In more severe cases, a crown might be required to cap the tooth and prevent further decay and breakdown.
In the worst-case scenario, a tooth might require extraction. We will consider the best time to recommend extraction in order to avoid interference of your child’s other teeth. When gaps are created by tooth removal, it can lead to further issues as teeth tend to drift when large gaps are left between teeth.
The goal is to provide the best treatment for affected teeth while avoiding potential issues for growth and health of their adult teeth. Therefore, relieving sensitivity, repairing breakdown damage and prevention will all be part of your child’s treatment plan.
By identifying the condition early, we can also consider the use of pediatric crowns to protect the affected baby teeth from breaking down until their adult teeth have fully erupted.
Home Care and Prevention
First and foremost, it’s important to ensure your child is sticking to their regular dental checkups. We will be able to watch for signs of chalky teeth and provide treatment before progression causes severe damage.
Once diagnosed, sensitivity can be managed with a combination of home and professional care. We can provide fluoride varnish treatments every three months to help prevent further damage in mild cases of chalky teeth. Depending on your child’s age, sensitive toothpaste may help manage discomfort. Children over the age of seven can add a fluoride mouthwash to their daily dental hygiene regime and children over 10 can be given a special prescription toothpaste if necessary.
Proper at-home hygiene combined with professional care will help reduce the risk of further breakdown and decay.
Are chalky teeth a cause for concern?
Chalky teeth are always of concern as they are very difficult to treat. The teeth are unstable and the health of your child’s enamel is affected, making teeth difficult to fill. This is because fillings are designed to adhere to enamel that is mineral rich and chalky teeth do not have the same minerals as healthy teeth.
Chalky teeth can also be quite painful as sensitivity increases. This means regular cleanings can be painful for your child. In severe cases, we might recommend treatments be performed under sedation to keep your child as comfortable as possible.
Chalky teeth are a condition that should be diagnosed and treated as soon as possible. We will ensure your child receives the best possible treatment to keep their teeth healthy for life.
If you would like more information about chalky teeth and preventing hypomineralisation, call Treehouse Dental at 1-833-333-6623 or contact us here.