So-called “chalking teeth” are being diagnosed more and more frequently in children. Even when they push out of the gums, the teeth show white to brownish spots. Their surface is matt and sometimes so porous that they simply break off or crumble when chewed.
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MIH: Chalking teeth in children
In technical terms, the phenomenon is called molar incisive hypomineralization (MIH) and is a cause of great concern for physicians. An estimated 10 to 15% of all children are now affected. In the group of 12-year-olds it is even 30% – which means that chalk teeth occur even more frequently than caries.
©Wikipedia/Maurizio Procaccini et al./CC BY 2.0
You can find out what parents should definitely know about the new “widespread disease” in this article:
1. Not a purely cosmetic issue
MIH’s stained teeth aren’t just unsightly. They are the result of a mineralization disorder of the tooth enamel. Normally, the tooth enamel ensures that the teeth are stable and healthy. However, with MIH, the enamel is deficient in minerals and therefore brittle and weak. Biting on something hard can chip or crumble the tooth. In addition, the porous tooth enamel is a gateway for tooth decay.
2. Many, but not all, MIH teeth are sensitive
Because the enamel does not adequately protect the teeth, MIH teeth can be extremely sensitive. The children have pain when brushing their teeth or when drinking cold and hot drinks. Parents should then pay attention to particularly soft bristles when brushing their teeth and let the children rinse with lukewarm water.
Fortunately, however, not all children’s teeth are equally sensitive. So just because a child isn’t in pain doesn’t mean you should rule out MIH.
3. Exact cause still unknown
MIH affects the permanent teeth in most cases. Sometimes one, sometimes several. The problem arises while the teeth are still developing in the jaw – the cause must therefore lie between the 8th month of pregnancy and the age of 4 years. What exactly is the reason and why MIH has been increasing steadily since the early 1990s is unfortunately unclear. Researchers suspect that several factors work together here.
One of the main suspects is the increasing spread of plasticizers (bisphenol A), which are contained in plastic packaging, beverage bottles or cling film. The intake of medications by both mother and child could also affect tooth development. It also cannot be completely ruled out that the phenomenon was simply not well known and was therefore not discovered.
4. Prevent and protect
Where the exact cause is unknown, it is unfortunately not possible to prevent it in a targeted manner. However, paediatricians advise that parents reduce contact with plasticizers, especially in the first year of their child’s life: for example, by making sure that toys are BPA-free or by removing food from the plastic packaging immediately after purchase.
In addition, MIH requires extremely careful protection against caries. This includes thorough dental care and regular visits to the dentist. On the other hand, the renunciation of unnecessary tooth killers such as fruit juice from feeding bottles, chewy candies and the like.
5. See the dentist early
Chalk teeth are particularly noticeable on the incisors. But the molars can also be affected. A visit to the pediatric dentist is therefore essential to identify MIH early and stop the condition from getting worse. It is best to plan the first check-up visit as soon as all the milk teeth are there – i.e. at around 2.5 to 3 years of age.
Unfortunately, broken tooth enamel cannot be restored. But depending on how severe the damage is, there are different treatment methods to support the tooth enamel: from fluoride jellies to fluoride varnishes to sealants. For children who suffer from pain or whose teeth are brittle, an artificial tooth crown may also be the way to go.
Since the treatment of MIH teeth must be carried out very carefully and correct communication with the children is also important, it is advisable to go to a designated children’s dentist instead of a “normal” dentist. On the website of the German Society for Pediatric Dentistry you will find doctors who are familiar with exactly this problem.
6. It’s not always MIH
Stains on the enamel may be an indication of MIH. However, other reasons can also be responsible:
- If the white spots only appear over time, this is a clear sign of the onset of tooth decay.
- White patches on a permanent tooth can also be a sign of a fall: if a child hits their milk teeth, the impact can leave a permanent mark on the developing tooth underneath.
- With fixed braces, white spots often appear under the brackets because the enamel has been attacked there.
- An oversupply of fluoride in small children can also lead to tooth discoloration. Although fluoride strengthens tooth enamel, too high a dose can also make tooth enamel brittle. It is therefore important to always choose toothpaste with an age-appropriate fluoride content.
Your dentist is the best person to determine whether your child is suffering from chalking teeth. If you act in time, worse things can usually be prevented. That said, parents shouldn’t panic – with good dental care and the right care, teeth affected by MIH can last a lifetime.
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Sources: parents, bkk-mobil-oil, denture savings
Thumbnails: ©wikipedia/Maurizio Procaccini et al.