Q: What is wrong with my child’s tooth?
A: Your child’s tooth has a condition known as enamel hypoplasia. During the development of the tooth, there was a disturbance in the formation of the enamel (the white part of the tooth). Defects can range from small areas of white, yellow or brown staining to extensive areas of pitting, roughness and loss of protective enamel. These teeth are often sensitive to temperature and sweets.
Q: Why did this happen?
A: The reasons are not clear, but may be linked to any of the following:
- Frequent childhood illness (high fevers, respiratory disease)
- Premature birth and/or complications at birth
- Infections during pregnancy or infancy
- Poor prenatal and postnatal nutrition
Q: How can a dentist take care of teeth with enamel defects?
A: Pit and fissure sealants might be helpful for teeth with mild defects. For more extensive breakdown of enamel, a composite (tooth-colored) filling may need to be placed. These fillings need to be closely monitored and may need occasional repair. Teeth with severe hypoplasia may require a stainless steel crown for protection. Stainless steel crowns may also be needed when traditional fillings have not been successful.
Q: What can we do at home?
- Regular dental visits as recommended by your dentist
- Excellent oral hygiene (brushing and flossing) supervised by an adult
- Avoiding highly acidic foods/drinks (carbonated beverages, fruit juice, sour candies, etc.) and limiting sugary snacks and drinks
- Using recommended fluoride gels and rinses (ex. Prevident, Act with Fluoride)
- Use of special toothpastes (ex.. Sensodyne, Thermodent) if the teeth are sensitive
Q: What is the long term outlook for these teeth?
A: As pediatric dentists, our goal is to treat teeth with enamel hypoplasia very conservatively so as to preserve and protect as much natural tooth structure as possible. However, many of these defective molars will need permanent crowns in the future.