What is Tooth Enamel Hypocalcification? Is There a Treatment?
Calcium plays an important role in your oral health. This mineral strengthens the outer shell, which defends tooth enamel against cavities and decay. So what happens when your tooth enamel doesn’t have enough calcium? Learn more about hypocalcification, its causes and treatments.
What is hypocalcification?
Hypocalcification occurs when your tooth enamel contains insufficient amounts of calcium. This deficiency causes your enamel to be thin and weak. Hypocalcification also gives your teeth an opaque or chalky appearance and can cause a white, yellow or brown discoloration.
Weakened enamel puts your teeth at greater risk of decay and makes your teeth more prone to cavities and erosion. You may also experience increased sensitivity to hot and cold foods and drinks.
Hypocalcification and Hypoplasia
Hypocalcification and hypoplasia affect the enamel of your teeth. However, hypoplasia describes enamel that is hard but thin and lacking in quantity, usually caused by genetics or exposure to certain substances while teeth are developing. Hypocalcification describes enamel that is soft and slightly calcified but normal in amount.
What Causes Hypocalcification?
Enamel hypocalcification is usually caused by two factors, either extremely acidic conditions in the mouth or a genetic defect.
Acidic conditions: Plaque is a sticky, colorless biofilm that always forms on your teeth. It feeds on the sugars and starches in your food and releases acid that attacks your tooth enamel. With inadequate oral care, acid from plaque and acid from your diet can break down the calcium in your tooth enamel, causing hypocalcification.
Genetic conditions: An inherited dental condition called amelogenesis imperfecta can also lead to hypocalcification. In this rare disease, tooth enamel does not develop normally in primary or adult teeth due to the malfunctioning of certain proteins. This results in soft and easily eroded enamel.
How Do You Treat Hypocalcification?
If you notice chalky or creamy stains on your teeth, see your dentist as soon as possible. Hypocalcification requires immediate intervention to prevent tooth decay. When acid attacks are the cause of calcium loss, treatment depends on the severity of your case.
Treatment of mild cases begins with establishing an appropriate oral care routine. This includes brushing with fluoride toothpaste for two minutes twice a day, cleaning between teeth with floss or an interdental tool, and scheduling regular oral exams with a dentist. It also means adjusting your diet to avoid sugary and acidic foods. Additionally, your dentist may recommend pastes, creams, and fluoride treatments to promote remineralization. Restoration work may be required for more severe cases where hypocalcification leads to decay.
For patients with amelogenesis imperfecta, hypocalcification cannot be cured, but dentists can provide artificial substitutes for unhealthy tooth enamel. Full crown restorations or special dentures for defective teeth can cover and protect the inner tooth, prevent decay and relieve tooth sensitivity that patients with this condition often experience.
Tooth enamel provides the best protection for teeth, and calcium loss sends a warning signal that the enamel is weakening. If the dentist can catch the problem in time, it can prevent it from developing into a more serious condition. If you notice chalky spots or patches on your teeth, make an appointment with your dentist to have them checked and treated and seek advice on preventing their recurrence.