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What Are Chalky Teeth?

August 21st, 2019

You’ve always taken care of your child’s smile. You make sure thorough brushing and flossing take place twice a day. You serve foods high in vitamins and minerals and low in sugar. You make and keep regular dental appointments at our Lacey or Olympia, WA office. But even with the best dental routines, sometimes conditions can occur that will require additional professional care.

One of these conditions can affect your child’s enamel while the tooth is still forming. When baby teeth or adult teeth appear, you might notice white, creamy yellow, or brown spots in otherwise healthy-looking enamel. These spots are softer and rougher than normal hard, smooth enamel. Because of their texture and color, such teeth are often referred to as “chalky teeth,” but this condition is actually known as enamel hypomineralization.

What is hypomineralization?

Enamel is the strongest substance in our bodies—stronger even than bones. Enamel is largely composed of minerals. If something disrupts the process of enamel development in baby or adult teeth, the result can be abnormally low mineral content in the enamel. This leaves teeth weaker and more likely to suffer decay and damage.

Premature birth, low birth weight, and other pre-natal factors have been suggested as risk factors for hypomineralization in primary teeth enamel. Permanent teeth can be vulnerable to this condition as well. Adult teeth are forming in young children well before they make an appearance. It’s been suggested that certain early childhood factors, such as recurring high fevers, some diseases, even specific antibiotics, can interrupt the formation of the enamel and lead to hypomineralization of adult teeth.

What are the results of enamel hypomineralization?

Children with this condition are much more likely to experience rapid tooth decay because of their weaker, more porous enamel, especially in the molars. Further, they tend not to respond as well to the numbing effects of local dental anesthetics, while their teeth tend to be more sensitive to pain. Cases can be mild, moderate, or severe. In severe cases, teeth might require crowns or possibly extractions, but even mild discoloration and other cosmetic problems can lead to self-consciousness in your child.

How can we help?

Catching this condition early is very important. If your child has had any medical conditions that might affect tooth development, let Dr. Bo Davidson know even before that first tooth comes in. If you notice anything unusual about a new baby or adult tooth, give us a call. For primary or permanent teeth, the sooner we can begin treatment, the better the long-term outlook.

We might suggest fluoride applications or desensitizing treatments. We can apply sealants to reduce the risk of cavities, and use bonding to restore discolored or weak patches in the tooth. Both of these methods have greater success if the enamel near the affected area is in good condition, so early treatment is vital. If teeth require more protection, crowns are often the best choice. We will design a treatment program to suit your child’s individual needs now and for the future.

How can you help?

Dental hygiene is important for every child, but especially for a child with weak and porous enamel. Because children with hypomineralized enamel develop cavities more quickly that those with strong enamel, it is very important to watch your child’s diet and keep to a regular, careful, and thorough routine of brushing and flossing at home. Be attentive to any sensitivity problems, and be sure to follow any suggestions we might have for strengthening enamel.

Remember, early diagnosis and treatment is always best! If at any time you notice chalky patches, or have any other concerns about the appearance of your child’s teeth, if they seem to be causing your child pain or are unusually sensitive, call Dr. Bo Davidson immediately. We want to work with you to treat any current problems and to prevent new ones.

Can children be at risk for periodontal disease?

August 7th, 2019

You want to check all the boxes when you consider your child’s dental health. You make sure your child brushes twice daily to avoid cavities. You’ve made a plan for an orthodontic checkup just in case braces are needed. You insist on a mouthguard for dental protection during sports. One thing you might not have considered? Protecting your child from gum disease.

We often think about gum disease, or periodontitis, as an adult problem. In fact, children and teens can suffer from gingivitis and other gum disease as well. There are several possible reasons your child might develop gum disease:

  • Poor dental hygiene

Two minutes of brushing twice a day is the recommended amount of time to remove the bacteria and plaque that cause gingivitis (early gum disease). Flossing is also essential for removing bacteria and plaque from hard-to-reach areas around the teeth.

  • Puberty

The hormones that cause puberty can also lead to gums that become irritated more easily when exposed to plaque. This is a time to be especially proactive with dental health.

  • Medical conditions

Medical conditions such as diabetes can bring an increased risk of gum disease. Be sure to give us a complete picture of your child’s health, and we will let you know if there are potential complications for your child’s gums and teeth and how we can respond to and prevent them.

  • Periodontal diseases

More serious periodontal diseases, while relatively uncommon, can affect children and teens as well as adults. Aggressive periodontitis, for example, results in connective and bone tissue loss around the affected teeth, leading to loose teeth and even tooth loss. Let Dr. Bo Davidson know if you have a family history of gum disease, as that might be a factor in your child’s dental health, and tell us if you have noticed any symptoms of gum disease.

How can we help our children prevent gum disease? Here are some symptoms you should never ignore:

  • Bleeding gums
  • Redness or puffiness in the gums
  • Gums that are pulling away, or receding, from the teeth
  • Bad breath even after brushing

The best treatment for childhood gum disease is prevention. Careful brushing and flossing and regular visits to our Lacey or Olympia, WA office for a professional cleaning will stop gingivitis from developing and from becoming a more serious form of gum disease. We will take care to look for any signs of gum problems, and have suggestions for you if your child is at greater risk for periodontitis. Together, we can encourage gentle and proactive gum care, and check off one more goal accomplished on your child’s path to lifelong dental health!

Why Are My Child’s Baby Teeth So White?

July 17th, 2019

One of the most charming aspects of your baby’s beautiful smile is his brilliantly white teeth. But now that his adult teeth are coming in, the difference in color is very noticeable. Is this something to be concerned about? Happily, probably not.

Both baby teeth and adult teeth have the same basic structure. The inside of the tooth, the pulp, contains blood vessels and nerves. The pulp is covered by a layer of dentin, a hard, yellowish substance composed of living tissue that helps protect the pulp and transmits signals for pain, pressure, and temperature. Enamel is the outer protective covering of the tooth, and its natural color can vary from greyish-white to light yellow.

If primary and permanent teeth are so alike, how can they look so different? As with so many things, the difference lies in the details. In adult teeth, enamel is semi-translucent, so it will allow the color of what is beneath it to show through. And the color of the thick dentin beneath is naturally yellow. Baby teeth have a thinner layer of the yellowish dentin. And while their enamel is also thinner, the enamel in baby teeth is generally whiter and more opaque, so less of the underlying yellow from the dentin is visible.

The result of these small differences is that adult teeth are normally darker than baby teeth to begin with. And when a permanent tooth that is just a bit darker erupts next to a bright white baby tooth, it is going to look even more yellow than it actually is. Once all of the baby teeth in front have been replaced with adult teeth, you will have a much better idea of their real color without unflattering comparisons!

There are times when concerns about tooth color should be looked at by Dr. Bo Davidson more closely.

  • Unusual discoloration in teeth should be examined. Some discoloration is caused by medical conditions such as hypomineralization, some by environmental factors such as excess fluoride, some by trauma, some by medication. If you notice a discolored section of your child’s tooth, or the tooth has turned a different shade from the teeth around it, give us a call.
  • Your child might have naturally whiter or yellower teeth simply as a matter of genetics. If your child is self-conscious about the color of his teeth, we can talk about whitening solutions when he is old enough to use them safely. Home whitening products should never be used on young children.

Give yourself time to adjust to your child’s new, adult smile. You will probably notice no difference at all once all of his permanent teeth come in. And keep those new teeth their brightest with consistent brushing and flossing, and regular checkups and cleanings at our Lacey or Olympia, WA office. This is the simplest prescription for a charming, white, and healthy smile at any age.

Educational and Entertaining Enamel Experiments

July 10th, 2019

Let’s talk about the science of our teeth for a moment. Our enamel has a very high mineral content, making it extremely strong.  In fact, enamel just happens to be the hardest substance in our bodies.  But, unfortunately, it is not indestructible! Certain foods we eat can actually damage the surface of our teeth. Some simple and entertaining experiments can show children how our teeth can be affected by things we eat and drink, and how we can help protect them.

If you have a science-minded student at home, there are many activities you can do together, using educational websites, common household products and lots and lots of eggs. (Why eggs? Eggshells are a great substitute for teeth in these experiments. Not only are they various shades of white--like our own teeth, they are also calcium-rich—like our own teeth.) You can find any number of experiments using uncooked eggs, hardboiled eggs, whole shells with the contents blown out, or eggshells alone, so you can find just the right activity for whichever egg treatment works best for you.

Examine Enamel Erosion

One of the ways we protect our teeth is with healthy eating. The bacteria in plaque use the sugars and starches in our foods to produce acids. These acids are the substances that break down the minerals in our enamel and leave the enamel weaker. Weaker enamel is more easily attacked by bacteria and acids, which leads to cavities.

With eggs or eggshells and some carefully selected food products, you can see just how acidity affects teeth. Different websites suggest a variety of acidic liquids to dunk your eggs in, such as vinegar, soda, or citrus juices, so it’s easy to find an experiment that works with your pantry. Always use a plain water sample when you submerge eggs or shells to act as a control to measure differences against. How do the egg shells soaked in acidic liquids differ from those in plain water? It’s also fun to add simple sugar water as a test liquid to see what happens. Is it sugar or acid that causes more damage? And why might that be?

The Fluoride Fix

Fluoride is well known as a mineral that protects the structure of our teeth and helps prevent cavities. And there are actually experiments out there to test the protection fluoride provides using your egg stand-ins.

In some experiments, a hardboiled egg is coated with fluoride toothpaste or rinse for a specific amount of time and then dunked into vinegar. An untreated egg also gets a vinegar bath. You are asked to observe what is happening to each egg as it sits in its vinegar bath—are there bubbles on one egg and not the other? What do the bubbles mean? Other experiments require longer exposure to fluoride and then to vinegar—what happens to the shells of the treated and untreated eggs? What could this mean for our teeth?

Staining Studies

Our diet can do more than help create cavities. Enamel is very strong, but it is not stain-proof! Dark colored foods and drinks can make our teeth appear darker or more yellow. (And teeth that have suffered enamel erosion can pick up stains more easily.) How does food affect the brightness of our smiles?

If this question interests you, find experiments that use favorite beverages as a soak for your eggs. Choose liquids with a range of color, such as coffee, soda, and apple juice. Or choose an experiment that uses different varieties of soft drinks. Will foods the same color cause the same amount of discoloration in your egg volunteers? Do you want shorter or longer soaks in each liquid? Do you want to make use of a recycled toothbrush to see if brushing that discolored shell makes a difference? With toothpaste or without?

Even though these activities are designed for older children, they still require adult supervision. You can find detailed instructions for any of these experiments at many science and educational sites online. With some household supplies, plenty of extra cups, and a quantity of eggs, you and your child can demonstrate some of the basic effects our food choices have on the health and appearance of our teeth. It’s a wonderful way to promote healthy eating and brushing habits, scientific curiosity, and shared experiences!

Don’t forget to let Dr. Bo Davidson know how your experiments turned out the next time you visit our Lacey or Olympia, WA office!

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