Healthy tooth or a piece of chalk?
Think of a piece of chalk and its softness, porosity, and colour; now touch one of your teeth. Does that feel the same?! How about the colour? Are they a normal white or chalky white?!
Do you think a healthy tooth can have a soft structure like chalk? Well, of course NOT!
So, there might be something wrong going on with the chalky tooth!
What is Enamel?
As you may already be familiar with the term, the enamel is a protective layer for your tooth and the most mineralised substance in your body, covering the most visible part of a tooth above the gum.
Enamel is your body’s hardest substance and, if healthy, will not have a chalk-like structure. Chalky enamel occurs when the enamel lacks the necessary minerals to be strong enough against bacteria and decay.
What is Chalky Enamel?
Chalky enamel, technically referred to as “hypomineralisation,” describes a dental condition in which a tooth becomes softer in texture due to inadequate minerals.
The condition causes the enamel to have an abnormal colour; the tooth may look whiter than other teeth or shows shades of yellow or brown on some spots. Chalky enamel can appear as yellowish or brownish spots on the tooth, or else it can cause the whole surface of the tooth to have an abnormal colour.
Unlike regular enamel that appears shiny and has a hard surface, chalky enamel may sometimes appear dull and crumble. It’s also possible for a chalky enamel to appear shiny but with having visible grooves.
The severity of chalky teeth varies for different individuals; while chalky teeth can be a mild condition for some children, it may affect others severely, leading to more problematic dental issues.
Chalky enamel increases the child’s chances of developing tooth decay and should be addressed as soon as possible. Chalky enamel mostly affects molars; that’s why it is sometimes referred to as “molar hypomineralisation,” but in severe cases, it may emerge in incisors as well.
According to some research, hypomineralisation affects almost 1 in 6 children. The condition is more common in children, but it’s not unlikely that you, as an adult, experience chalky teeth as well. Whatever your age, chalky teeth require urgent dental care and should not be neglected.
What causes chalky enamel?
Possible reasons for chalky teeth
Several factors such as genetics can cause chalky teeth or hypomineralisation; the exact cause has remained a mystery, though.
Here you can see some of the potential causes of chalky teeth
- Children with low birth weight
- Improper enamel formation
Infants with poor health
- Recurrent fever
- Metabolic disorders
- Increased consumption of antibiotics
Poor prenatal habits or health condition
- Drug use
- Vitamin D deficiency
- Excessive weight gain
- Celiac disease
- Calcium deficiency
- Vitamin deficiency
- Liver disease
- Trauma to the mouth or teeth
Chalky enamel needs to be addressed by a professional dentist to prevent further damage to the teeth.
What are the symptoms of chalky teeth?
Be on the lookout for the following symptoms and take your child to their dentist’s office if you notice these signs:
- Sensitive teeth to heat or cold
- Teeth with yellowish-brown spots
- Teeth with white spots
- Teeth that wear down or break easily
- Teeth that are more susceptible to cavities and decay
- Pain after brushing and while eating
- Teeth with small pits or grooves
Detecting white spots on the teeth may be the first warning sign of chalky enamel and the easiest way to identify and take care of this problem! However, some other signs may not be as identifiable and may grow silently to become a bigger problem.
The temporary chalky sensation that you may feel after eating certain foods high in oxalic acid should not concern you because the feeling is only caused by consuming these foods and will disappear after you rinse your mouth, not because you have chalky enamel. You can use mouthwash or chew some sugar-free gum to get rid of this sensation.
Common foods containing oxalic acid:
- dry beans
- leafy greens
- sweet potatoes
To ensure your child’s oral health, proper dental development and prevent any dental issues, schedule dental checkups with their paediatric dentist regularly.
How to treat chalky teeth
What can you do about chalky teeth?
Having chalky teeth can be a great source of pain and discomfort for the person because the condition makes their teeth more sensitive to heat or cold and more vulnerable to decay.
They cannot consume their favourite food or drink, which can be not very pleasant for a child.
Furthermore, having chalky teeth means the tooth enamel lacks calcium minerals and is, therefore, less resistant to damage and break easily. This makes maintaining oral hygiene harder for the person, which is again an elevated risk for decay.
Treatment for hypomineralisation
While treating chalky teeth may not be an easy task to do, your child’s pediatric dentist may still be able to manage hypomineralisation.
The best course of action will be decided after the dentist assesses the severity of the condition, your child’s age, and dental development.
Treatment options for chalky enamel may include:
- Fissure sealing: Fissure sealants can prevent tooth decay.
- Fluoride treatments: Fluoride treatment can strengthen the teeth and minimise the risk of cavities. With the help of fluoride compounds, the tooth that lacks the essential minerals may regain the minerals and rebuild itself.
- Stainless-steel crowns: Crowns can be used to strengthen the teeth and minimise pain. A permanent gold/porcelain crown may later replace this stainless-steel crown.
- Dental fillings: Using dental fillings for children is not always possible because chalky teeth are so sensitive and weak and may not tolerate the procedure. Besides, filling materials should stick to healthy enamel, which we lack in this condition. Filling may even lead to more tooth damage in some cases.
- Tooth Extraction: Extracting the tooth is the preferred option; however, it may be the last viable option if the tooth is too damaged to be saved. If the tooth’s integrity has been compromised, it needs to be removed and replaced with a synthetic tooth.
To help your child deal with tooth sensitivity because of chalky enamel, the dentist may suggest:
- drinking lukewarm water instead of cold water
- avoiding consuming highly sugary or acidic foods and drinks
- using fluoride toothpaste
- using toothpaste for sensitive teeth
- brushing with a soft-bristled toothbrush
Untreated chalky teeth
Leaving chalky teeth untreated can increase pain and sensitivity, the risk of damage and breakage of the tooth, infection, nerve involvement, and eventually tooth loss.
The choice of anesthetic for treating chalky teeth
Because chalky enamel causes hypersensitivity, local anesthesia will not usually work and cannot effectively numb the teeth and surrounding areas. Therefore, dentists will sometimes have to use happy gas or general anesthetic for dental treatment in more severe cases.
Can my child’s chalky teeth because of poor oral hygiene?
Proper dental hygiene is always beneficial to oral and overall health; however, unfortunately, chalky enamel is a developmental disorder and not preventable and can occur even to those children who maintain good oral hygiene.
Chalky teeth crumble easier than normal teeth, but this is not because of bacteria or plaque buildup. Chalky teeth are vulnerable and more prone to breakage because they lack the essential minerals to keep them strong and are weaker than healthy teeth.
Hypomineralisation is sometimes merely a result of genetics, and there’s not much you or your kid can do about it.
The best thing you can do is seek dental treatment as soon as you notice your child’s chalky teeth, tooth sensitivity, or any tooth pain. Early detection of chalky enamel can highly reduce the risk of further damage to the tooth or tooth loss.
It is important to remember that any tooth pain needs to be checked out by a dental professional to prevent future damage to your child’s oral health. Early detection of dental problems can save you or your child from pain, discomfort, and potentially preventable complications.
Please give us a call today to schedule an appointment to address your child’s chalky teeth as soon as possible.