When your baby starts teething, it's normal to feel both frustration and pride. Your little one is growing up, but you wish they'd calm down and sleep through the night again! But when that first tooth arrives and it has a strange, blue-gray, opalescent sheen, that frustration and pride are quickly replaced with worry. What's wrong with your baby's teeth? While there are a few possibilities, it's likely that your child has a condition called dentinogenesis imperfecta.
What is dentinogenesis imperfecta?
This is a genetic disorder that affects the way the teeth develop. Your baby probably inherited the condition from you or the other parent, though it can be caused by a mutation. Just because you and your partner have normal teeth does not mean you're not carrying the altered gene.
Specifically, dentinogenesis imperfecta affects the way the dentin (the middle layer of the teeth) forms. Not only do the teeth take on a strange color, but they are also very weak and prone to chips and fractures.
How will this affect your child throughout his or her lifetime?
Unfortunately, dentinogenesis imperfecta affects both the baby teeth and the adult teeth. If your baby's first tooth is affected, then all of the teeth will be affected. Without treatment, your child's baby teeth will fracture and be lost, often within a matter of months or years. The adult teeth, when they later erupt, will suffer the same fate. Luckily, there are numerous treatments available to help protect or replace your child's ailing teeth.
How is dentinogenesis imperfecta diagnosed and treated?
If you suspect your child has this condition, it's wise to make an appointment with a pediatric dentist immediately. The sooner the condition is diagnosed, the sooner the dentist can begin treating your child. To determine if dentinogenesis imperfecta is, indeed, to blame for your child's blue-gray teeth, your dentist will physically examine the teeth. He or she will also take X-rays to better visualize the condition of the teeth that have not yet erupted.
The severity of dentinogenesis can vary somewhat. Some patient's teeth are so fragile that they crumble almost as soon as they erupt. Other teeth are a bit sturdier. Based on the severity of your child's condition, the dentist may recommend one or more of these following treatment protocols:
1. Dental Crowns: Your child's baby teeth will likely be covered in crowns as they erupt. Crowns are essentially "caps" that fit over the tooth. They will protect the underlying tooth from fracturing or experiencing excessive wear. Usually, covering a baby tooth with a crown is enough to keep it in the mouth until the child naturally loses it at around age 6 or 7.
Once your child's adult teeth begin erupting, the dentist will evaluate the extent to which they are affected by dentinogenesis imperfecta. In less-severe cases, the adult teeth may also be covered in crowns as they erupt.
2. Dental Implants: If some, but not all, of your child's adult teeth are so weak that the dentist believes they will fracture even with a crown, the dentist may remove those teeth and replace them with dental implants. Implants look and feel just like natural teeth and can last a lifetime when well cared for.
Note that the implants will not typically be put into place until your child reaches adulthood and his or her jaw starts growing. In the meantime, your child's dentist will try to keep his or her real teeth as viable as possible with crowns, fillings, and partial dentures.
3. Full Mouth Reconstruction: In the most severe cases of dentinogenesis imperfecta, all of the adult teeth are so weak that they will fracture and erode even if covered in crowns. In this case, the dentist may recommend removing your child's adult teeth and doing a full mouth reconstruction. This is an involved procedure which replaces all of your child's teeth with dental implants. While it can be a time-consuming process and does involve some discomfort, when it is over, your child will have fully functional, natural-looking teeth that are not susceptible to cavities and decay.
If your baby's first tooth looks bluish, call clinics like Riverside Dental Studio to learn more about your options.