Creating A More Beautiful Smile

Thin Enamel on Baby Teeth: Genetic Issue or Oral Care Problem?

You've done what you thought were all the right things as a parent. Your child brushes his or her teeth carefully and doesn't drink or eat an excess of sugary things. Yet there are multiple cavities and discolorations on your child's baby teeth. What gives?

How Enamel Defects Often Start

Know that you're not alone. Almost 40 percent of kids have teeth with some enamel defects, of which about three-quarters are caused by some kind of development or genetic issue (the other quarter are caused by some sort of facial trauma).

Enamel begins to form in the incisors of the fetus at about 15 weeks' gestation, and continues to form and harden until 2 months after birth (but before teeth erupt). Canines take a little longer—they start mineralizing at about 19 weeks and aren't completely hardened until about 9 months after birth.

The bad news: Cells that produce the enamel, called ameloblasts, are pretty sensitive. So any type of problem that occurs developmentally will be visible on your child's teeth as he or she matures. This mostly shows up in the middle third of the incisors—right where you notice them most in your child's smile.

What Your Dentist Can Do

If you notice discoloration on your young child's teeth, it's a good idea to visit your dentist. This may increase your options. Often, dentists can paint over the discolored areas with a composite resin, which helps protect the tooth and gives a better cosmetic appearance.

If you've gone beyond the point at which the tooth can be treated with a tooth-colored sealant, your dentist can also try microabrasion to remove the discoloration and the beginnings of any cavities, then cover the area.

A final solution is to apply veneers or crowns to the affected teeth, protecting them and improving appearance.

Worst Case Scenarios

It's easy to think that baby teeth don't matter that much. After all, they'll all fall out eventually, and be replaced with permanent teeth that naturally have a much thicker layer of enamel.

But ignoring baby teeth discoloration and decay can cause a lot of problems, including:

  • Tooth pain, when bacteria gets from the cavity to the root of the tooth.
  • Lost teeth, because your dentist may have to pull problem teeth.
  • Incorrect spacing for permanent teeth—if baby teeth need to be removed early, the remaining teeth may space themselves out and make it hard for permanent teeth to come in.

If you suspect your baby or toddler may have an issue with his or her teeth, talk to your dentist (like those at Covenant Family Dental Care) right away. Preventative care can make a big difference.