D3 Group

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Mystery of children’s ‘chalky teeth’ explained

A blood protein blocks hardening of enamel on teeth growing inside the jaw

Australian and Chilean researchers solve a 100-year-old mystery and call for education and research to save millions of teeth worldwide.

Case studies available.

One in five children have chalky tooth enamel – visible as discoloured enamel spots – which often causes severe toothache and decay, and sometimes leads to abscesses, extractions and orthodontic problems.

Now, researchers from The D3 Group (based at The University of Melbourne, Australia) and the University of Talca in Chile, have discovered the mechanism causing molar hypomineralisation, the commonest type of chalky teeth.

They report today in Frontiers of Physiology that chalky molars arise when developing enamel is contaminated by albumin – a protein found both in blood and in the tissue fluid surrounding developing teeth. The trigger appears to be childhood illnesses.

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Chalky teeth: a silent epidemic damaging 1 in 6 children’s teeth

Melbourne researchers call on parents, dentists and other health professionals to act to save children’s teeth.

HowHypominHappensA recent study has shown that at least one in six children is affected by ‘chalky teeth’, placing them at a heightened risk of tooth decay. Many of the affected children are losing their adult molars and are on a path to years of expensive dentistry and orthodontics.

There’s currently no cure, but with early detection and dental treatment, tooth decay or tooth extraction can often be avoided. However, many cases aren’t getting to the dentist quick enough.

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Chalky Teeth Background Information

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.
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