As a parent, you work hard to make sure your kids are well taken care of. From healthy food to regular doctor and dentist visits, you want to make sure their growth is on track and there are no medical problems lurking. But what happens when no matter how well you brush your child’s teeth, they never seem to look white – in fact, they seem to be stained or permanently discolored?
Whether you suspect an enamel problem or your child has been diagnosed with enamel hypoplasia, here’s everything you need to know to help make the best of this rare dental condition.
What Is Enamel Hypoplasia?
Enamel hypoplasia is an enamel defect. The word hypoplasia literally means “underdeveloped.” This condition occurs when tooth cells called ameloblasts fail to properly form, or become damaged. If the ameloblasts fail, the enamel fails too. As a result, the enamel may be thinner or weaker than it should be.
Enamel hypoplasia often appears as pits or holes in the teeth, white spots, or brown and yellow staining of the teeth.
So, what causes these ameloblasts to malfunction? Many things, including:
- Poor maternal nutrition during pregnancy or poor infant nutrition
- Infection during pregnancy or early childhood
- Genetic disorders
- Exposure to certain toxic chemicals
- Lack of oxygen before birth
- Infection after birth
If you or your child have been diagnosed with enamel hypoplasia, there are things you can do to protect your teeth and improve their appearance. For young children with an enamel hypoplasia diagnosis, dental sealants can help protect baby teeth until adult teeth have formed. If the child’s enamel hypoplasia is caused by an outside factor, there may be a chance that it will not appear in the adult teeth; however, children who have genetic enamel hypoplasia will frequently have the same condition in their adult teeth.
If the enamel hypoplasia does appear in the child’s adult teeth, parents may choose to continue to treat with sealants until the child has developed all their permanent teeth. Following any orthodontic work that may be necessary, there are several options to improve the strength and appearance of the teeth.
Crowns can be used to create a deluxe filling for teeth that are too small, misshapen or fragile due to missing enamel.
If the teeth are aesthetically normal, sealants may be continued into adulthood to help prevent the teeth from developing cavities. Without that added layer of enamel, teeth with enamel hypoplasia are much more vulnerable to cavities than normal teeth.
Much like veneers, bonding can improve the look and color of the teeth. Often teeth with enamel defects can appear misshapen or uneven in addition to being discolored. Bonding covers each tooth with layers of resin composite that are permanently adhered to the tooth. Bonding may need to be replaced over time due to normal wear and tear, but it can dramatically improve tooth shape and color.
Unfortunately, bonding can be expensive, but the good news is that some insurance plans will cover bonding for children born with enamel defects. Check your individual plan for more details. The other main difference between bonding and veneers is that bonding is said to stain more easily than veneers do, so be sure to keep up your excellent brushing and flossing habits once you’ve gotten your teeth bonded. This will ensure they always look their best!
For more information about enamel hypoplasia, or for any other or concerns, please call Dr. George’s office at 724-934-3422.