The term “soft teeth” is sometimes used to describe teeth that have weak, thin, or missing enamel. This condition is caused by genetic factors or by disruptions to the specialized cells that form the enamel in developing teeth.
Rare hereditary genetic conditions such as amelogenesis imperfecta specifically affect the formation of tooth enamel. These disorders can affect enamel’s thickness, appearance, and mineral content, as well as bite alignment and tooth size.
Disrupted Enamel Formation
Similar enamel problems can be caused by conditions like hypomineralization, where reduced mineralization causes softer enamel, and hypoplasia, where a reduced amount of enamel causes thin or missing enamel. These conditions may occur because of genetic factors, or may be caused when enamel formation is disrupted while the teeth are in the developmental stage.
Most of our permanent teeth are not fully formed until around the age of eight, with the wisdom teeth developing even later. Conditions such as high fevers, poor nutrition, and trauma before birth or in early childhood can interrupt the development of the specialized cells that form tooth enamel, leading to problems with enamel quality and quantity.
If you have thin or damaged enamel due to genetic causes or other medical conditions, we will monitor your dental health closely and offer treatment as needed:
- If you have teeth with mild discoloration or pitting, professional whitening and composite restorations can improve their appearance.
- Thin and weak enamel makes teeth more sensitive and more likely to suffer tooth decay. There are treatments that can help protect teeth with weakened enamel, including remineralizing treatments and sealants.
- For more seriously compromised teeth, bonding, veneers, and crowns can be used to replace damaged enamel and protect the pulp and dentin below.
Several factors can also affect enamel strength once the teeth have erupted. When people mention their “soft teeth,” they often mean teeth more prone to cavities and tooth decay. This type of “weak enamel” can actually be caused by preventable dental conditions:
Poor Dental Hygiene
Oral bacteria in plaque produce acids that attack tooth enamel, stripping away its minerals and weakening enamel structure. This process is called demineralization, and it’s the first stage of tooth decay. Regular brushing and flossing is necessary to keep plaque from building up on the teeth.
Bacteria in plaque use the sugars in our diets for fuel, enabling them to grow in number and produce more acid waste products to erode the teeth. Eating and drinking acidic foods and beverages is also erosive, because when the oral environment becomes more acidic, demineralization occurs more quickly.
Saliva contains calcium and phosphate minerals that restore minerals to the enamel and neutralize acids. When saliva production decreases, this remineralizing process is disrupted and the oral environment becomes more acidic and erosive without saliva’s neutralizing effect.
Aggressive Brushing Habits
Overly aggressive brushing and scrubbing can cause tooth abrasion and enamel erosion. Hard bristled brushes are especially damaging, which is why dentists recommend soft brushes only.
Bruxism, or tooth grinding, is very hard on enamel, putting hundreds of pounds of extra pressure on the teeth. Over time, tooth enamel becomes worn down, chipped, or even fractured.
Diseases such as GERD, heartburn, and bulimia can cause a backflow of stomach acid into the mouth. Stomach acid is extremely erosive, and often causes serious damage to the back of the teeth.
If you have weak or thin enamel because of genetic, prenatal, or other conditions that affected your tooth development, it’s important to visit our dental office regularly. Careful monitoring will help prevent cavities, tooth sensitivity, and tooth loss.