Enamel Hypoplasia/Enamel Defect
Enamel hypoplasia (enamel defect) is a common medical condition, classified as a developmental dental defect (D3), characterized by a reduction of tooth enamel thickness or poor-quality tooth enamel due to low mineral content. This underdeveloped enamel can appear as discoloration or spots on the teeth or a dent, rough area, or pit on the affected tooth’s surface.
Enamel hypoplasia typically presents while the tooth enamel is developing, so young children are especially susceptible; however, enamel hypoplasia can affect adults (and permanent teeth), as well. Enamel hypoplasia generally worsens over time and can affect any of the teeth. Cases can range from mild, with only a few visible spots, to severe, in which the enamel is significantly deformed, giving the tooth a translucent appearance.
Symptoms of Enamel Hypoplasia/Enamel Defect
Symptoms and signs of enamel hypoplasia can vary depending on how severe the condition is or how far it has progressed. Hypoplastic spots, which are the most common indicators of enamel hypoplasia, can appear as yellow, white, or brown discolorations on the teeth.
Other common symptoms and signs of enamel hypoplasia include:
- Surface pits and fissures: Teeth can erupt with depressions in the enamel surface that can trap food and plaque. These pits and fissures generally begin forming during early tooth development and are caused by problems with the cells that form the enamel.
- Tooth sensitivity: Affected teeth are often sensitive to hot and cold sensations due to the thinness of their enamel.
- Excessive dental caries (cavities): Teeth with poor-quality or less enamel are more susceptible to decay, therefore patients with enamel hypoplasia often experience more cavities.
Since other conditions can cause some of these same symptoms, enamel hypoplasia is often misdiagnosed or not identified. If your child exhibits signs of enamel hypoplasia, consult a pediatric dentist, who typically has more experience in such childhood dental disorders, for an evaluation.
What Causes Enamel Hypoplasia?
Enamel hypoplasia can be the result of many factors, therefore its cause may be difficult to ascertain.
Contributing factors to enamel hypoplasia include:
- Genetic disorders
- Exposure to toxic chemicals (during infancy or pregnancy)
- Infection or illness during pregnancy
- Dental trauma or jaw injury
- Maternal smoking
- Vitamin A, C, or D deficiency
- Hypoxia (lack of oxygen to bodily tissues)
- Premature birth
- Intubation of premature babies
- Malnutrition (pre-natal or post-natal)
- Certain medications taken during pregnancy or infancy
- Some early childhood diseases and/or chronic illness in the first few years of life
Mild cases of enamel hypoplasia usually present only cosmetic problems, however, if left untreated, enamel hypoplasia can become severe and lead to significant complications. The increased risk of tooth decay can result in a myriad of dental issues, including:
- Tooth pain
- Early childhood caries
- Tooth loss
- Costly dental treatments
Treatment for Enamel Hypoplasia
Treatment for enamel hypoplasia will depend on its severity. For cases that are purely aesthetic, without any other dental complications, cosmetic treatments can be utilized on the affected teeth.
Cosmetic treatment options for enamel hypoplasia include:
- Microabrasion: Treatment involving roughening (or abrading) the tooth surface and then whitening it to allow the tooth to have a more blended appearance
- Tooth bonding: Procedure in which tooth-colored resins are attached to the hypoplastic teeth
- Tooth veneers: Porcelain overlays which cover the entirety of each affected tooth
Minor enamel hypoplasia can usually be controlled by practicing good oral hygiene, such as avoiding sugary foods and undergoing routine fluoride treatments.
Other treatments for enamel hypoplasia may include:
- Use of enamel-strengthening toothpaste or re-mineralizing cream
- Additional fluoride treatments
- Restoration through dental crowns
- Extraction in conjunction with orthodontic evaluation, a bridge, or an implant
The main goals of initial enamel hypoplasia treatment are:
- Reduce tooth sensitivity
- Strengthen enamel
- Improve appearance
At Kids Dental, we offer comprehensive, family-centered pediatric dental care in a child-friendly nurturing environment. If you are looking for a place to call your dental home, please schedule a consultation with one of our pediatric dentists or orthodontist by completing an Online Appointment Request or calling our Kids Dental Plano Office or Kids Dental Carrollton Office.