Chalky Teeth Background Information

D3 Group, Embargoed

Overview of main points of research/story

  • There are a number of causes of dental caries (tooth decay) in children; the most widely known include poor dental hygiene and dietary factors.  New evidence from The D3 Group suggests that a condition known popularly as ‘chalky teeth’ is likely to be an overlooked but significant cause of dental caries and toothache in children.  As such, regular dental precautions (dental hygiene, fluoride and diet) may not be enough to prevent toothache and cavities.
  • Chalky teeth, more properly called molar hypomineralisation is a defect where the tooth (usually a molar tooth) forms abnormally before it is ‘born’ into the mouth.
  • New information: The D3 Group have brought together fragmented research from 42 studies around the world to show that on average, 1 in 6 children are affected by chalky teeth.  The D3 Group consider this problem to be of an ‘epidemic’ scale.
  • The research also suggests that chalky teeth is likely to be caused by illness during infancy.
  • As childhood illnesses are a normal aspect of growing up, and thus may not be preventable, any child may be prone to this condition regardless of their socioeconomic background or dental hygiene and dietary habits.
  • Dental caries in children are thus not necessarily the parent’s fault or a product of parental neglect.
  • The type of infant illnesses that may be associated with the onset of chalky teeth remains to be identified.
  • Chalky teeth are particularly susceptible to wear and decay, and usually affect the first adult molars , which come through at about 6 years of age.
  • If identified early there is a much better chance the tooth can be saved through dental care.
  • If not identified early, chalky teeth may decay and/or become painful to the point where extraction of the tooth becomes necessary.
  • Dental work can be costly for parents of affected children, and the condition may increase the need for ongoing orthodontic work.
  • Very few parents and healthcare professionals outside of dentistry are adequately aware of the significance of chalky teeth, and few children are screened for the condition during routine child health examinations.
  • The D3 Group has developed a new online resource that provides useful information to parents and healthcare professionals, helping them to recognise and seek appropriate dental care for children affected by the chalky teeth condition.

What are chalky teeth?

Chalky teeth or ‘molar hypomineralisation’(‘molar hypomin’ for short) is a very troublesome Developmental Dental Defect (D3) that causes lots of suffering and healthcare costs around the world. On the bright side however, there is good reason to expect this widespread problem may eventually go away (i.e. become preventable) once scientists figure out what causes it.  This is a quest that many families are helping The D3 Group with.

A key feature of molar hypomin is that it’s quite selective for certain teeth. The teeth that are most prone are the ‘6-year-old molars’ – otherwise known as the first ‘adult’ or ‘permanent’ molars whose eruption into the mouth typically occurs at 6–7 years of age. Other molars can also be affected including the ‘2-year-old molars’ in infants. Sometimes in badly affected children their front teeth (incisors) can have this problem too.

Hypomineralisation is just a technical way of saying “abnormally low amounts of calcium mineral”, which leaves the tooth enamel soft and porous rather than hard and shiny white. And it’s that softness that can lead to problems such as sensitivity (dental pain or ‘toothache’), crumbling and potholes leading to increased risk of decay (dental caries), and unsightly appearance in the case of front teeth. Dentists can also strike problems when trying to fix these defective teeth. So, although kids with chalky teeth can be perfectly healthy in all other regards, it’s possible their dental condition can be quite troublesome if not cared for well.

What is D3

“D3” is a simple way of saying “DDD” which stands for “Developmental Dental Defect”. D3s originate from developmental problems – that is, things going awry when the tooth was being formed inside a child’s jaw. So D3s can be viewed as a sort of congenital disorder or birth defect.

Several different types of D3s can occur depending on what actually went wrong (e.g. whereabouts in the jaw, when during development, and how badly the problem struck). And so it can be said of D3s that “some
are common and others rare, some affect most teeth, others here’n’ there.

Nearly all D3s affect the outward appearance of the tooth enamel – sometimes just a small patch is affected (or “wonky” as a child might say) and other times it’s wonky all over. Such discolourations may not necessarily be of concern if the enamel surface remains sufficiently hard. However, when the patches of abnormal enamel are soft and porous, there is increased risk of dental pain and tooth decay (i.e. dental caries) – so dental treatments may be recommended to nip these problems in the bud.

There are four main types of D3, one of which is molar hypomin. Find out more at: http://www.thed3group.org/what-is-d3.html

What is The D3 Group

The D3 Group is a translational research network spanning the developmental dental defect (DDD = D3) sector in Australia and New Zealand. Their members are an eclectic group of individuals whose lives have been touched by D3 problems one way or another. Some of their families have experienced D3s first hand, many care for people with a D3 either as dental practitioners or public health professionals, and many others are engaged in D3 research and education. The Group includes a growing number of medical experts and D3-savvy individuals from industry. (See Representatives of The D3 Group.)

The D3 Group believes that collaboration will help get D3 problems such as molar hypomin better recognised, understood, and cared for. Their ultimate goal is to make many of these problems go away through prevention.

To achieve these goals their primary mission is to help educate people about D3s as it pertains to them – families and patients, the public health sector and politicians, practitioners and industry, researchers, educators and students. They hope an improved foundation of knowledge and understanding will lead to widespread benefits across societies.

Apart from education and advocacy, The D3 Group aims to foster improved research and healthcare of D3s. To do so, The D3 Group aims to further develop and exploit a translational research network that connects Australasia and beyond.  Specifically, The D3 Group:

  • holds scientific/network meetings and workshops of interest to their diverse membership;
  • disseminates information to D3G members, students and the public;
  • undertakes strategic planning and development – strengthening global efforts toward D3;
  • fosters research and training – build teams, support researchers and trainees; and
  • aims to improve the health and well-being of people afflicted with D3s.