Is there such a thing?
I had never heard of soft teeth, until one day a patient told me her teeth were soft and it ran in her family.
I was like what?
The picture above is what came to my mind when she said that.
I have never heard of that?
So I researched the term “soft teeth” because I was not taught about this phenomenon in hygiene school…. However, I was taught some teeth are more susceptible to developing decay than others due to an enamel deficiency you may be born with.
Have you been told you have soft teeth?
Do you feel you have soft teeth?
What if I told you there really is no such thing as soft teeth?
Almost everyone is born with strong teeth.
Teeth are made of enamel which……is actually the hardest substance in the human body, even stronger than our bones. Another fun fact… Our teeth are the only part of our skeleton we actually clean.
Enamel is not bone, it is tissue, made of 96% hard minerals including calcium, phosphate, and hydroxyapatite the other 4% is made up of water and protein.
These minerals give the teeth their strength and hardness along with the ability to flex and absorb the tremendous force without breaking or fracturing.
The enamel becomes weak if the teeth are deficient in minerals. These minerals are what keeps them strong and able to take the daily abuse we put them through. We use our mouth for eating, chewing, drinking, swallowing, digesting, speaking, smiling, showing emotion, and even sometimes breathing.
For a tooth to be soft or weaker you would have experienced an event while your teeth developing or a trauma that causes damage.
Our teeth, which are different from the other tissues, that they are the only part of our body that does not shed or regenerate like our hair, nails, and skin.
I know it’s hard to believe. I had never thought of it like that before.
Many of the people who feel to have soft teeth go to the dentist more frequently with tooth sensitivity, cavities, toothaches. Their teeth are less likely to withstand everyday wear and tear even with good oral home care.
Even though “soft teeth ” are just a myth, you may be wondering if this is true. W do you seem to be getting more cavities than others?
If teeth are not generally soft what are some causes of “soft teeth”?
There is something called Enamel hypoplasia which is caused by environmental factors that can be hereditary but can also be caused by a variety of factors, such as premature birth, malnutrition, hormone imbalances, bacterial, viral infections, or trauma to newly developing teeth not yet in the mouth.
Enamel is the hard outside layer of a tooth that protects the softer sensitive yellow inside layer of the tooth called dentin. If the enamel is affected the teeth can erupt with the dentin exposed looking yellowish or having brown-orange spots on them. Children with hypoplasia also feel more sensitivity and pain when the teeth are exposed to cold or thermal changes due to the lack of enamel.
Hypocalcification is a defect in the enamel caused by insufficient amounts of minerals, either in a baby or permanent tooth. It can be caused by a local or systemic disruption in enamel mineralizations. I had high fevers when I was a baby and I was given tetracycline. My permanent teeth came in looking yellow, orange, gray, and brown. The tetracycline interfered with the normal growth and development of my teeth and so many other 60’s babies. They no longer give tracking to kids under the age of 12. I feel like we have been experimenting our whole lives with many justifications in the name of science. How about you? That is another topic. Back to Enamel.
How do you distinguish between enamel hypoplasia and Hypocalcification?
In hypoplasia the enamel is hard, but it is also thin and deficient in quantity. The condition is a result of defective enamel matrix formation. Enamel hypocalcification is characterized by soft and under calcified enamel that is opaque ( white) in appearance but normal in quantity.
If you think that “soft teeth” tend to run in your family, you’ll be surprised to know the real reason cavities happen.
Mothers who carry these bacteria — especially those who have disease and cavities while pregnant— can pass the bacteria from their mouth to the baby or child through their saliva and blood. Parents also share their oral hygiene habits with their children. Beliefs and habits are passed down. If your parents did not have good habits and only went to the dentist if they were in pain, odds are they did not take their kids regularly either.
It’s important to avoid transferring bacteria from one mouth to another and to begin dental care early. Cleaning the infant’s mouth as soon as they are born by wiping the gums and then brushing their teeth when they erupt.
The combination of bacteria and sugars in the mouth generates acid, this acid causes an imbalance in the pH and the minerals in the enamel to slowly dissolve ……creating cavities.
This softening of the enamel by the bacteria and acid assist in the decay process creating soft spots on a tooth.
Tooth enamel can undergo a process called demineralization if the PH of the mouth falls below 6.5 weakening the surface of the teeth.
Many people incorrectly believe that certain events can cause their teeth to become soft. These include pregnancy, breastfeeding, illnesses like diabetes, allergies, etc.
Ultimately It is the oral microbiome, Bacteria, and pH that are to Blame
Tooth decay, or a cavity, is the process where harmful acids dissolve part of the tooth enamel.
Teeth really are strong enough to resist decay, but when plaque sits on a tooth for more than 24 hours, and if you’ve eaten anything with sugar in it, the acid will be produced, and the decay process begins. Unless you do something to disrupt the process.
The bacteria from acid will literally work to weaken and break down the enamel on your teeth where plaque is found.
Without proper oral hygiene including regular brushing and flossing, the longer that the bacteria remain on a tooth, slowly dissolving it away.
Research shows that dental caries (tooth decay) are an infectious disease. I explain more about that in my Dental caries blog Podcast episode Youtube
In fact, Cavities are the most common chronic childhood disease.
But there’s good news: like most diseases in your mouth ……It is preventable.
Dental caries are associated with particular strains of bacteria, which live in the mouth called Streptococcus Mutans.
Most people who suffer from frequent dental caries (cavities) (tooth decay) actually start out with perfectly normal healthy teeth.
Their enamel is just as developed and strong as the average person.
If you have cavities it is most likely due to diet, pH, and poor oral hygiene
Poor dental habits and diet are usually the cause of most cavities and with very few exceptions nearly all cavities are 100% preventable.
With that being said there really is a condition that causes some people’s teeth to be more susceptible to cavities than others. Which may be where the soft teeth phenomenon started.
It is called Amelogenesis Imperfecta and can result in thin, improperly formed enamel. This enamel is often pitted, uneven and brown. I have seen this occur even before the teeth erupt into the mouth. It is visible on x-rays. So I know when the tooth comes into the mouth we can expect chronic teeth issues for that child.
There is not much that can be done to prevent this condition. When the teeth erupt sometimes you can seal the occlusal surfaces but most of the time these teeth will eventually need fillings and possibly crowns to protect them from cavities.
A tooth can also become “soft” if some unusual event occurs to disrupt normal development.
The development of a tooth is a complex and coordinated process and many things can disrupt it.
Some examples of things that can make teeth soft include but are not limited to:
- Fever, even for a short period of time while the tooth is still developing.
- Malnutrition leading to vitamin deficiencies.
- Dry mouth or a PH level of 5.5 or below
- Hormonal imbalances.
- Certain rare genetic conditions.
- Dental decay (cavities)
- Systemic consumption of fluoride at extremely high levels (> 5 ppm).
- Acid conditions in the body or mouth (heartburn or acid reflux)
- An eating disorder like Bulimia where the teeth are exposed to stomach acids
Acid is one thing that puts your teeth at a higher risk for cavities, dental caries, and tooth decay.
The crazy thing is you can have acidic body chemistry without ever knowing it.
As a matter of fact, the majority of people suffering from heartburn and acid reflux don’t even realize it’s happening, at least until it has damaged their teeth or wearing certain jewelry turns their skin greenish-blue. When you have this reaction to metal it is a sign you are on the acidic side of the pH scale.
The Inner layers of teeth (called Dentin) can become exposed to damaging acids from food and saliva which leaves these teeth more susceptible to cavities.
The third and by far the most common cause of weakened enamel for both children and adults is simply enamel erosion. You’re probably already familiar with the main culprits behind enamel erosion in a kid’s mouth: sugary drinks (including juice!), starchy, sticky, or sugary snacks, poor brushing habits, and genetics
What can you do to protect yourself from cavities?
There are important steps you can take to prevent tooth decay:
- Practice good oral hygiene including brushing, flossing, and rinsing after meals when you can’t brush.
- Diet…. What you put in your mouth and how frequently you eat plays a huge role in your body as a whole, not just your mouth.
- Breath through your nose. This will help reduce saliva and dry mouth.
- Chew gum or candy that contains the first active ingredient xylitol. Xylitol tastes sweet but, unlike sugar, it is not converted in the mouth to acids that cause tooth decay.
- Make sure your teeth are exposed to minerals that can protect and strengthen them like Mi Paste or fluoride typically found in tap water and many types of mouthwash. Not one that contains alcohol because it can dry the mouth and kill the good bacteria as well as the bad. What products you use will depend on your beliefs about Fluoride. I have an episode talking about fluoride, good or bad?
Learn what a good dental routine looks like and incorporate it into your life. Brush at least two times per day and floss at least once.
Make sure you know how to brush correctly. Not using enough force or using too much force can both be dangerous.
Consider investing in a rotating or spinning toothbrush because it makes it easier to get a thorough cleaning without causing any damage to your teeth. A BURST electric toothbrush is 10 x more effective than a manual brush.
Also, make sure you know how to floss. Many people avoid flossing because they aren’t able to hold the floss. A water flosser can be a great alternative to floss and can remove 99% of the biofilm. I have an episode about that as well.
If you don’t know or are unsure what is right for you, ask your dental hygienist for a tutorial during your next visit or pop on YouTube. There is a video for everything these days. I have several at dental hygiene 411 and am continuing to make more as I answer the same things over and over for patients. We don’t know what we don’t know. There are just things we were never taught when we were young and new research coming out almost daily.
Choose foods that are good for your teeth which are really just foods that are good for your overall health. Limit or avoid foods that are sugary or high in starch. Switch out sugary sodas and juices for hydrogen water! We will talk more about that in the near future.
Go to the Dentist for regular dental exams. So you know the health of your mouth and what action you can take to stop future problems before you lose precious teeth.
If you want to help your child avoid cavities, do not put them to bed with a bottle at night and avoid using pacifiers after the age of three. Discourage thumb or finger sucking as much as possible. I failed at this. My daughter sucked her finger till she was thirteen.
She wore braces for 7 years.
Schedule a first dental visit early in life so it becomes routine and helps your child understand the importance of good oral hygiene by including tooth brushing as part of their morning and evening routine.
There’s no reason to accept that your teeth are just bad, you are going to get cavities and there is nothing you can do about it.
You might just need to work harder than the average person to maintain good dental health, but, unfortunately, in some cases, even the best dental routine will not be enough to prevent cavities. There are many other factors you may need to consider. For instance Diet, mouth breathing, PH, tongue posture, Tongue lip tie, and Sleep breathing disorder.
Introducing fluoride in the drinking water and in toothpaste greatly reduced the incidence of decay in the population. Now that more people are drinking bottled water without fluoride and we consume 7 times the amount of sugar the incidence of decay has increased again.
Fluoride speeds up the movement of calcium and phosphate on the tooth surface. This remineralizes the tooth structure. The remineralized tooth structure contains fluoridated hydroxyapatite which resists the acid attack much better than the original tooth surface alone.
That is why your dental professional may recommend fluoride for everyone in the family.
If you are not a fluoride fan MI paste does not contain fluoride but rather the minerals our enamel is made up of. It stretching my teeth by remineralizing the soft spots left by acid. It does contain milk so if you have a milk allergy it is not an option.
I have a blog youtube video podcast about Mi paste for more information.
To sum today’s podcast up teeth are the strongest surface in the body…You can prevent cavities at home by:
- Establishing a good oral health care routine for you and your family
- Brushing at least twice a day and floss or water floss daily
- Make sure you are using the correct angle and brushing the gums to disrupt the plaque and biofilm. Consider an Electric toothbrush I love the BURST
- Choosing a healthy diet limiting foods high in sugar
- Drinking more water
- Don’t put a baby to bed with a bottle, wipe out their mouth or brush their teeth before bed.
- Visiting your dentist at least yearly and knowing the health of your mouth
You should be able to keep your teeth your entire life—as long as you take good care of them.
Putting your mouth at the top of your daily to-do list and practicing good dental and dietary habits from the start will help your kiddos have a beautiful smile for a lifetime.
A healthy mouth is a healthy body and a healthy happy life!
“Maternal Oral Health in Pregnancy.” K.A. Boggess. Obstetrics & Gynecology. 2008, vol. 111, pp. 976–86.https://www.smfm.org/attachedFiles09/Boggess-K%20Oral%20health%20in%20Pregnancy%20O&G%202008.pdf. Accessed 2013.
“ADA Statement on Early Childhood Caries.” American Dental Association. www.ada.org/2057.aspx. Accessed 2013.
“Baby Bottle Tooth Decay.” Mouth Healthy, American Dental Association.
“Decay.” Mouth Healthy, American Dental Association. http://www.mouthhealthy.org