Hypomineralisation is the technical term for chalky teeth. Generally, the condition happens when tooth enamel, usually on the molars, has less mineral and is softer in texture, just like chalk.
Nearly 1 in 6 children have hypomineralisation and the condition varies from mild to severe. While the condition isn’t necessarily linked to tooth decay, it’s important for children to visit their local orthodontist regularly to prevent decay. Take note, though, this doesn’t affect the number of teeth that might be lost to hypomineralisation.
While the cause isn’t fully understood, some experts believe that genetics plays a part. But there are other factors to be aware of. Below, we look at the symptoms of chalky teeth, the potential causes and what you can do about them.
Chalky Teeth Symptoms
Some signs of this condition are obvious, whilst others are more difficult to detect. In fact, they might not even be noticeable until there’s a bigger dental issue.
Thin tooth enamel can lead to a wide range of symptoms, such as:
- White spots
- Tiny groves
- Heat and cold sensitivity
- Yellowish-brown stains
- The irregular wearing of teeth
- The build-up of harmful bacteria
- Susceptibility to acids in drinks and food
- Increased vulnerability to cavities and decay
What Causes Chalky Teeth?
1. Premature Birth and Poor Health
Hypomineralisation that affects a child’s baby teeth can be the result of low birth weight or premature birth. Sometimes, an early birth may interrupt proper enamel formation when the baby is in the womb.
Enamel for permanent teeth forms during our first three years of life. Recurring high fevers, metabolic disorders and general poor health can prevent the formation of healthy enamel. Antibiotics can also be a contributing factor to chalky teeth in children.
Poor development of enamel enamel can also be the result of a genetic condition called amelogenesis imperfecta. This condition, also called congenital enamel hypoplasia, can even result in abnormally small teeth and a whole range of orthodontic problems. Mostly, the genetic condition can either occur on its own or part of a syndrome that affects other parts of your body.
But there are other hereditary syndromes that can result in chalky teeth, like:
- Seckel syndrome
- Usher syndrome
- Ellis-van Creveld syndrome
- Heimler syndrome
- Treacher Collins syndrome
- 22q11 deletion syndrome
- Otodental syndrome
3. Prenatal Problems
Hypomineralisation can also result from a variety of prenatal problems, including maternal:
- Weight gain
- Vitamin D deficiency
- Drug use
4. The Environment
Even environmental factors and other problems during infancy can lead to chalky teeth, such as:
- Trauma to the teeth
- Liver disease
- Calcium deficiency
- Vitamin A, C or D deficiencies
- Cerebral palsy due to fetal or maternal infection
- Celiac disease
What Happens to Children’s Chalky Teeth?
Children’s chalky teeth break down, even if they’re not affected by tooth decay. Also, these teeth are more susceptible to cavities and tend to break down faster with decay because they’re so much weaker.
The tooth that’s most often affected first is an adult molar that usually comes in around the age of 6 or 7.
Why You Should Worry
Chalky teeth are difficult to treat. These teeth are hard to fill as the materials used for fillings are supposed to stick to healthy enamel that’s filled with minerals. Without enough minerals, the fillings have nothing to stick to, and the tooth will carry on breaking.
Depending on the circumstances, you might get a crown on the teeth, but if the teeth are severely damaged, there’s no choice but to have them extracted.
Another problem with chalky teeth is extreme pain and sensitivity. Hypomineralisation makes your teeth extremely sensitive, and in turn, it’s difficult to numb the teeth to treat them effectively. Often, we need to use a general anaesthetic to treat chalky teeth.
Finding the Right Treatment
Early screenings are crucial and it’s why we always recommend that children visit their local orthodontist or dentist sometime between their first tooth coming in and their first birthday.
Treatment for chalky teeth depends on how bad the problem is. The aim of treatment is to:
- Maintain a healthy bite
- Prevent tooth decay
- Keep teeth looking good
- Preserve the structure of the teeth
Sometimes, smaller defects that aren’t causing sensitivity or tooth decay may not need immediate treatment, but we’ll still monitor them closely. In some cases, your dentist may apply a topical fluoride to protect the teeth, too.
If the teeth are already extremely sensitive, the tooth structure is showing signs of wear or cavities are already appearing, there are several treatment options available.
6 Treatment Options
- Resin-bonded sealant – this helps to improve the sensitivity of the teeth.
- Dental amalgam fillings – these fillings are made from a variety of metals and are silver in colour, so they’re not always ideal for front teeth.
- Resin-based composite fillings – these fillings are made to match the colour of your teeth as closely as possible, and they’re durable, so they’re perfect for both front and back chalky teeth.
- Crowns – a crown will completely cover a tooth.
- Gold fillings – similar to amalgam fillings, these fillings, these are durable but don’t look natural.
- Enamel microabrasion – a minimally invasive procedure designed to improve the look of the teeth.
In some cases, a permanent tooth may be so worn or malformed that it’s better to extract it.
Having thin tooth enamel means you need to monitor the health of your teeth. That’s because early treatment can help prevent more serious problems, like the loss of a tooth.
While it’s difficult to avoid chalky teeth in certain circumstances, keeping your teeth as healthy as you can ensure no more wear or tear on already weak teeth.
Here are a few tips:
- Brush your teeth at least twice a day with a soft toothbrush
- Keep acidic and sugary drinks and foods to a minimum
- If cold sensitivity is an issue, always rinse with lukewarm water
- Visit your dentist for regular check-ups
Chalky teeth may be painful and sensitive, but there are treatment options available.
Visit the team at Medland Orthodontics today to discuss your options.