What is enamel hypoplasia?

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Enamel what? If this dental term is unfamiliar to you, consider yourself in good company with most parents.

Enamel is the hard, protective outer layer of your child’s teeth – think of it as a shield that helps keep their teeth strong and healthy. When your child’s enamel is too thin (or when they don’t have enough of it), their teeth become far more vulnerable to decay and cavities.

Enamel hypoplasia is an enamel defect that only occurs while teeth are developing. However, as we age, it can affect both baby teeth and permanent teeth. Southmoor Pediatric Dentistry is here to explain the causes and signs of enamel hypoplasia, the treatment options we may suggest, and how you can help prevent it.

Causes of enamel hypoplasia

The many potential causes of enamel hypoplasia fall into two main categories: hereditary (you’re born with it) and environmental (the condition is caused by other factors).

Hereditary enamel hypoplasia

Hereditary enamel hypoplasia is caused by an inherited genetic defect that impacts the formation of a child’s teeth. Most of the hereditary factors that lead to enamel hypoplasia involve relatively rare genetic disorders, such as:

  • Amelogenesis imperfecta (also known as congenital enamel hypoplasia)
  • Ellis-van Creveld syndrome
  • Usher syndrome
  • Seckel syndrome
  • Treacher Collins syndrome

Because the foundation of the enamel on a child’s baby teeth begins in utero, sometimes enamel hypoplasia develops before the child is even born. Enamel hypoplasia can result from various prenatal issues, including:

  • Lack of prenatal care
  • Maternal drug use or smoking
  • Maternal vitamin D deficiency
  • Gestational diabetes
  • Premature birth or low birth weight

Environmental enamel hypoplasia

After birth, there are many environmental factors that can increase your child’s risk of enamel hypoplasia as they grow, including:

  • Dental trauma, especially when teeth are newly developing
  • Malnutrition
  • Vitamin A, C, or D deficiency
  • Calcium deficiency
  • Bacterial and viral infections
  • Jaundice
  • Celiac disease
  • Diabetes

Ingesting large amounts of fluoride can also cause enamel hypoplasia – one of many reasons why Southmoor Pediatric Dentistry encourages parents to supervise their child’s brushing until they can manage the task on their own.

It’s all about timing

The precise teeth affected by enamel hypoplasia will depend on the cause and timing of the disturbance in enamel development. For instance, the enamel on a child’s permanent front teeth typically forms by the age of five. However, the enamel on a child’s back molars does not form for eight years or more after birth.

If a child experiences dental trauma or contracts an infection at the age of seven, their front teeth probably won’t be affected – but their back molars might be.

Signs of enamel hypoplasia

Some signs of enamel hypoplasia are obvious, while others are more difficult to detect. If your child has enamel hypoplasia, you may see:

  • White spots
  • Yellow or brown staining
  • Tiny pits or grooves
  • Chipped or missing enamel (or in the most severe cases, no enamel at all)

Because enamel helps protect the sensitive pulp of your child’s teeth, enamel hypoplasia can be painful. The thinner the enamel is, the more sensitive their teeth will be, especially to heat or cold. Your child may also have a large amount of cavities.

Your Southmoor pediatric dentist will check for any indication of enamel hypoplasia during routine cleanings. However, if you notice any of these signs between cleanings, contact our office right away so we can begin treatment.

Treatment for enamel hypoplasia

Treatment for enamel hypoplasia typically depends on the severity of the condition. For milder cases, your Southmoor pediatric dentist may recommend normal maintenance and care with special attention given to the affected area to avoid tooth decay.

Some cases may require cosmetic adjustments, such as professional bleaching or whitening, to eliminate discoloration and other aesthetic concerns.

For more severe cases, or when enamel hypoplasia creates significant bite issues, your smile in motion pediatric dentist may suggest a sealant, filling, or crown to cover and help restore the shape of affected teeth. As a last resort, highly damaged teeth may need to be removed.

Preventing enamel hypoplasia

Although nothing can be done to prevent hereditary enamel hypoplasia, you can help reduce the environmental causes.

Adding vitamin A, C, and D supplements to your child’s diet can help strengthen their developing teeth. Make sure they drink plenty of milk and eat green, leafy vegetables as well.

And of course, we’ll share the same advice that we do with all our patients – be diligent about brushing and flossing regularly, and minimize your child’s consumption of cavity-causing foods and drinks.

Don’t delay – schedule an appointment today

If you suspect that your child may have enamel hypoplasia, contact Southmoor Pediatric Dentistry immediately. The earlier that enamel hypoplasia is confirmed, the more effectively we can treat it.

At Southmoor Pediatric Dentistry, our patient-centered approach means that we do whatever we can to make you and your child feel comfortable and well cared for, especially when they’re facing dental issues. We take smiles very seriously around here! Starting from age one, you can count on Southmoor Pediatric Dentistry to meet all your oral health needs.

Call or visit us online to schedule an appointment today.