Hypoplastic Teeth: Parents, It’s Not Your Fault

The term “hypoplastic teeth” sounds scary. And depending on the severity of your child’s condition, it can be. If one or many of your child’s teeth are yellow, have white spots, and are beginning to chip, it may be time for a trip to the dentist, as your child could have hypoplastic teeth.

But before we get into the condition, understand that if your child has hypoplastic teeth, it’s not your fault. It is a genetic condition that is fairly common in children, and, depending on the severity of your child’s condition, it can be treated if necessary, or monitored and maintained.

Let’s take a look at some of the questions parents frequently ask me, and put some of those worries to rest.

What are hypoplastic teeth?

Enamel hypoplasia is a genetic disease in which enamel is underdeveloped on some or all of the teeth. In severe cases, the enamel does not develop at all.

It is important to note that there are varying degrees of hypoplasia. Your child may have as little as one tooth that is hypoplastic, or as many as a mouthful. If your child is fortunate enough to have only a couple hypoplastic teeth, do not worry about the “domino effect.” Just because a child has one tooth with enamel hypoplasia does not mean it will occur in the rest of the teeth.

What are the symptoms?

Enamel is what keeps your teeth strong and healthy, and also gives it that creamy color. A lack of it causes teeth to turn yellow or brown. Additionally, a lack of enamel causes the teeth to soften, and therefore, patients with hypoplasia are more prone to cavities.

In fact, in one 2009 study, in which nearly 500 children were surveyed, 4 percent of children had enamel hypoplasia. Among those children, 37 percent had cavities at age five, compared to 17 percent of children without hypoplasia. Surveyed again at age nine, researchers found 53 percent of children with hypoplasia had cavities, while only 35 percent without hypoplasia had cavities.

In addition to a yellowing or browning of the teeth, children with hypoplasia also feel more sensitivity and pain when the teeth are exposed to cold or thermal changes.

How do we fix it?

Early detection is important. I advise parents to bring their child in twice a year for cleaning and professional fluoride treatments. In addition, good home care and a healthy diet are essential for these teeth, because they are so prone to cavities.

In severe cases where enamel does not develop on the tooth at all, dental therapy for primary and permanent teeth is required. Stainless steel crowns may be needed to replace tooth structure.

What happens when left untreated?

If left untreated, cavities can become so large that they hit a nerve, and your child can develop a painful dental infection. A tooth may need to be removed in the worst-case scenario.

Remember, hypoplastic teeth is a fairly common condition, and it is purely genetic. You shouldn’t feel guilty if your child is diagnosed with the condition. But you should take preventative measures to ensure a small problem doesn’t worsen, including scheduling regular dental appointments.

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