Whoever hears the word chalk teeth might first think of the story of the wolf and the seven little goats. In the fairy tale, the wolf in question eats chalk to raise its voice and deceive the goat. However, the term “dental chalk” currently refers to a disease that affects the teeth in young children. Then these are similar in texture to white rocks: they become porous, choppy, rough – and simply break.
Meanwhile, an estimated 450,000 children in Germany suffer from chalk teeth, which need to be treated, as evidenced by data in the current dental report by Barmer. This corresponds to about eight percent of all children aged six to twelve, according to the health insurance company. According to surveys conducted by the Institute of German Dentists (IDZ), nearly 30 percent of 12-year-olds in Germany suffered tooth damage in 2016. Chalky teeth are among the most common dental diseases in children along with tooth decay. Where: The incidence of dental caries in children has been declining for years.
No wonder then that parents of young children are so alarmed by the continuing increase in so-called incisal mineral deficiency (MIH), the technical term – especially since there are no preventative measures against this bewildering disease yet.
Teeth crumble like chalk
Affected teeth turn yellow to brown, and some become so porous that they chip or crumble like chalk. Although more than 80 percent of sufferers show only minimal damage, the reduced mineralization of tooth enamel means that the teeth react more sensitively, making oral hygiene more difficult. The result: the risk of tooth decay increases. The disease usually affects the first molars, that is, the permanent first large molars, and the incisors, which is why it is usually diagnosed from the age of six.
Detailed descriptions of the phenomenon of chalk teeth have been around for over a hundred years, but the sharp increase in tooth damage worldwide is staggering. There is already talk of a “new widespread disease” (German Dental and Oral and Maxillofacial Association). Regionally, the highest numbers of cases are in North America and South and East Asia.
The Barmer Zahnreport 2020 report presents the MIH regional frequencies for Germany. However, it was not the epidemiological studies that led to this finding, as has been the case so far, but rather a combination of clinical study data and routine data from the health insurance company. However, only more serious cases of MIH requiring treatment have been detected.
Given the different case definitions, it is difficult to compare results between individual studies. According to this analysis, the nationwide prevalence in Germany during the years 2012 to 2018 was about eight percent with significant regional differences: twelve percent in Brandenburg and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, and six percent in Saxony, Hesse, Hamburg and Bavaria.
treatment and origin
Treatment depends on the degree of damage: if there is only a slight increase in sensitivity to pain, then applying a fluoride lotion or a seal can help. However, if the hard substance of the tooth has already suffered, then it should be filled in the sense of restorative treatment. In severe cases, a crown is required. If nothing helps, the only thing left is to pull the molar in question.
So far, one can only speculate on the reasons for the formation of chalk teeth, although there is mounting evidence that administration of antibiotics or anti-asthma medication between zero and four years can play a role. According to the researchers, neither toothbrush nor diet has an effect on MIH.
Girls are affected more often than boys among children ages 6 to 9. Between 2012 and 2019, 9.1 percent of girls and 7.6 percent of boys had a severe form of chalk teeth that they were receiving dental treatment. In addition, babies relatively rarely get chalky teeth if the mother is very young or over 40 at the time of birth. On the other hand, Barmer-insured mothers are twice as likely to have children with chalky teeth if they are between 30 and 40 years old at the time of birth.
Women use dental treatment more often
In addition to focusing on increasing chalk teeth, analysis of Barmer’s billing data shows another flaw that’s been around for years: frequency of visits to the dentist by gender. According to this, 73.4 percent of clients and only 65.3 percent of clients received dental treatment last year.
In general, far fewer people benefited from such treatment in the first year of a pandemic. In 2019, 76.2 percent of women and 67.8 percent of men were still practicing dentists. Overall, the number of insured with dental care by the health insurance company decreased from 6.57 million in 2019 to 6.25 million in 2020.
With regard to age, there are significant differences: accordingly, the differences between the sexes begin only from 15 years of age, and converge again from 80 years. Young people between the ages of 25 and 39 pay little attention to the health of their teeth. And this is despite the fact that healthy white teeth are ideal for beauty and a guarantee of success and are therefore often enviable. Another reason to take preventive therapy seriously.
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