Your child has a healthy diet and good oral hygiene, and yet she seems to be more prone to cavities than her friends and siblings. What’s going on?
Research indicates that some people are simply more susceptible to tooth decay because of environmental or genetic factors. A condition called Enamel Hypoplasia causes lower than normal amounts of enamel and can occur in both baby and permanent teeth.
What Is Tooth Enamel?
Enamel is the hard protective layer on the surface of the tooth. It is made up mostly of minerals—primarily a form of calcium phosphate. You may be surprised to learn that tooth enamel is the hardest substance in the human body. But some of us are born with a little less enamel than others. Indications of Enamel Hypoplasia include discoloration (the tooth may be extra white, or yellow/brown), a bumpy tooth surface and tooth sensitivity.
What Are the Causes Of Weak Tooth Enamel?
Weak tooth enamel can be caused by a number of different factors. These include certain medications taken by the mother during pregnancy or by a child during his or her early years. Some early childhood diseases and poor childhood nutrition can also cause weak enamel. But in some cases, weak enamel can simply be hereditary.
What Are The Treatments For Weak Tooth Enamel
If you or your child are prone to cavities, and your dentist identifies weak enamel as a problem, the most important thing you can do is see your dentist for checkups on a regular basis. In addition to monitoring for cavities, your dentist can offer treatments like sealants and fluoride coatings to help protect your tooth enamel.
A tooth sealant is a thin plastic resin coating applied to the chewing surface of the teeth (usually molars) to help prevent decay. The sealant bonds to the teeth and protects the enamel. In some cases of hypoplastic enamel, however, sealants may not be recommended.
In-office fluoride treatments have also been used for years to help boost the strength of enamel, in particular for patients who are at higher risk of developing cavities. In cases of patients with hypoplastic enamel, fluoride treatments are recommended every six months. Your dentist may also recommend brushing with a higher-fluoride toothpaste between visits and using a fluoridated mouth rinse. And of course, floss! Flossing is also key for everyone—and especially important for individuals with weak enamel.
Strengthening Your Tooth Enamel Through Lifestyle
Caring for your teeth at home is absolutely essential for both children and adults with Enamel Hypoplasia.
Avoid sugary, highly processed treats–especially soda, which is considered a prime cause of enamel erosion. These weaken teeth by eating away at naturally produced enamel in your teeth. Eat a diet designed to remineralize and strengthen your teeth, including whole grains, fruits and vegetables, proteins and dairy products. Some great snacks include celery or carrot sticks, fruits, nuts, cheese and plain yogurt. Many dentists are now also recommending that parents avoid giving fruit juice to young children because of its high sugar content. In some cases, your dentist may recommend drinking fluoridated water to help re-mineralize your teeth. And of course brushing and flossing twice a day is key.
Pregnant women should also focus on good nutrition throughout their pregnancy to help ensure healthy teeth for their children [link to January article]. Pre-natal nutrition can have a lasting effect on your child’s dental health.
Weak Enamel: Your Dentist Is Your Partner In Keeping Teeth Healthy
Not everyone is fortunate enough to be born with strong tooth enamel. But with early intervention and consistent care, weak enamel doesn’t have to mean a lifetime of cavities. Talk to your dentist about in-office and at-home treatments and approaches to keeping teeth healthy in the face of Enamel Hypoplasia and other problems related to enamel erosion. With vigilance and teamwork, you and your dentist can overcome these conditions and keep teeth cavity-free