Enamel dysplasia is a condition that affects the normal levels of one’s tooth enamel. A form of exceptionally hard tissue, enamel acts as a protective outer shell to cover the part of the tooth that contains the sensitive pulp, dentin and cementum tissues. The condition is usually caused by hypoplasia, which is the malformation of the tooth enamel; or by enamel that doesn’t adequately calcify. This enamel deficiency leaves the teeth vulnerable to damage and decay. It ultimately affects the visible surface areas of the teeth. We take a look at the signs of enamel dysplasia and what can be done to treat it.
What are the symptoms of enamel dysplasia?
- Pits and fissures – Back teeth such as molars and premolars often erupt complete with grooves and hollows in the enamel. These are called pits and fissures, and their purpose is to help you grind food without damaging your teeth. The hollows become deeper, however, if the enamel is too thin to begin with. Over time, the buildup of plaque and bacteria in the grooves releases acids that eat away at already insufficient enamel – resulting in clear indications of dysplasia.
- Thin enamel surface – Enamel dysplasia can also be seen in an unusually thin covering on the tooth. If your tooth enamel is thinner than it should be, you’re likely to detect a translucent appearance on the surface of the teeth. Tooth enamel can become worn as a result of numerous conditions in adults, but children and teens that have weakened teeth surfaces are more likely to carry some degree of enamel dysplasia.
- Discoloration – One of the most common signs of enamel malformation is the discoloration of the tooth’s surface. Those with this condition often develop mottling on the outsides of their teeth – an effect that can resemble that of patients who have had rickets. The marks can be white, brown or yellow and result from trauma to the overly thin tooth enamel. It may also come out of fluorosis, which describes the presence of too much fluoride during the development of the teeth.
- Hypersensitivity– The thinner the enamel, the less protection your teeth have and the more sensitive they are to heat, cold and other extreme stimuli. A high level of sensitivity is a common symptom of enamel dysplasia, although it can also be caused by other dental conditions as well. Adults can choose dental products that help soothe tooth sensitivity while preserving the enamel they do have. Younger children may need a different approach to dental hygiene to reduce their dental sensitivity.
Does enamel dysplasia result in a higher risk of cavities?
Patients with dysplasia have a higher tendency to develop cavities and other dental issues. In fact, a study showed that about 37 percent of 5-year-old children with hypoplasia had tooth decay compared to 17 percent of their peers without enamel hypoplasia. If you find your child showing a combination of these symptoms, it’s possible he or she has enamel dysplasia or hypoplasia. Discuss treatment options with your dental professional early, so you can take steps to prevent the condition from worsening over time.
What is the treatment for enamel dysplasia?
The treatment process for enamel dysplasia varies depending on the severity of the condition and the age of the child. For light cases where there is only mild discoloration, dentists might suggest bleaching the affected tooth to make it appear white next to its healthy counterparts. Some patients may need to have their teeth regularly bleached with hydrogen peroxide after the initial treatment fades.
For more serious problems, like visible pits or decay, the dentist might drill out the affected areas and fill in the cavities. This will reduce sensitivity and pain if the enamel dysplasia is only located in a small part of the tooth but won’t completely solve the problem if the entire tooth is affected. In that case, the dentist might recommend a more permanent solution, as the addition of a crown or onlay.
In advanced cases, the tooth may need to be removed altogether and replaced with a bridge or dental implant. The purpose of the dental implant is to prevent other teeth from shifting to bridge the gap to aid chewing, resulting in a crooked smile.
How can I prevent enamel dysplasia?
One of the most important factors in treating enamel dysplasia is catching it early. It’s better for the dentist to spot a sensitive area or fill a small cavity early on than to remove the whole tooth due to extensive decay.
As many cases of enamel dysplasia are caused by malnutrition, the addition of Vitamins A and D can assist in strengthening developing teeth. Patients can either take vitamin supplements or increase their consumption of milk, orange juice, and green leafy vegetables.
For many patients, enamel dysplasia is a lifelong condition where they constantly have to maintain good oral hygiene to prevent further decay. Dentists may require patients to come in for additional cleanings throughout the year and require professional toothpaste and brushes. Like many other oral diseases, proper hygiene and a regular treatment plan are all it takes for patients to reduce discomfort and eat whatever they want.
If you have any questions about enamel dysplasia, call Winning Smiles to schedule an appointment with your dentist – 716-332-2444.