If your teeth have white spots or stains, your tooth enamel could be showing signs of hypocalcification. White discoloration appears when acidic conditions in the mouth dissolve the calcium in the tooth enamel and cause it to leach out. Another cause of low levels of calcium in tooth enamel is the genetic disease amelogenesis imperfecta. Read on to learn more about the causes, complications and treatment options for weakened enamel.
Amelogenesis imperfecta is an inherited condition that affects the teeth and causes weakened enamel. The tooth enamel doesn't develop normally in primary or adult teeth; it's soft and easily worn away, or it may form only a very thin layer over the dentin. The National Organization for Rare Disorders estimates that about one in 14,000 to 16,000 American children has amelogenesis imperfecta.
Acids from mouth bacteria or acidic foods or drinks break down the calcium in tooth enamel. This loss of minerals is also called demineralization, and it's the first step on the path to cavities.
Calcium helps strengthen tooth enamel, and wherever it's lost, the tooth becomes weaker in that area. The first signs of calcium loss are white spots or stains on teeth because the structure of the enamel has changed. Hypocalcified enamel is more porous and chalky than healthy enamel. When left untreated, the calcium loss continues, the enamel breaks down entirely, and a cavity appears.
Poor oral care is often to blame for demineralization of tooth enamel. Patients who have their braces removed after orthodontic treatment might see white spots where the braces were attached to their teeth. White patches on teeth can also seem to appear after teeth whitening treatments, but in fact the treatments only make the condition more noticeable.
Finding the cause of the hypocalcification provides the best guide to the correct treatment. When the calcium loss is due to acid attacks, the enamel may respond to remineralization through pastes, creams or fluoride treatments, preventing further calcium loss and cavity development. Patients can also improve the strength of their enamel by brushing with a toothpaste that helps replenish natural calcium, such as Colgate Enamel Health Sensitivity Relief, providing the demineralization hasn't progressed to a cavity.
In amelogenesis imperfecta patients, hypocalcification cannot be cured, but dentists can provide artificial replacements for the unhealthy enamel. Full crown restorations or specialized dentures for defective teeth cover and protect the dentin, preventing decay and relieving the tooth sensitivity patients with this condition often experience.
Tooth enamel provides the best protection for teeth, and losing calcium sends a warning signal that the enamel is becoming weaker. If a dentist can catch the problem in time, he or she can stop it from developing into something more serious. If you notice white spots or patches on your teeth, book an appointment with your dentist to have them checked out and treated, and to ask for advice on how to prevent them from reoccurring.