Chalky Teeth

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Chalky teeth is a colloquialism used to describe teeth that are abnormal in some way. The term usually refers to tooth enamel that is visibly different in colour, consistency and/or shape morphology (biology). Hence, by analogy to blackboard chalk, "chalky enamel" is discoloured, opaque, soft, porous and prone to degradation – unlike normal enamel which is translucent, hard and impermeable. Chalky teeth and derivative terms ("chalky molars", "chalky enamel") have received widespread exposure as a metaphor for malformed teeth with elevated risk of tooth decay. A public "Chalky Teeth Campaign" highlights the major socioeconomic burdens of this medico-dental problem and desirability of research into preventive healthcare. [1][2][3][4][5] The gritty sensation elicited by oxalate-rich foods such as spinach may also be described as "chalky teeth'. [6]

Dental anomalies described as chalky teeth

Since 1920, various derivatives of "chalky teeth" have appeared in the academic literature to describe specific dental anomalies. Most references are to enamel defects that have a chalky appearance (white, cream or brown) and are of developmental origin (i.e. amelogenesis imperfecta, enamel hypomineralisation, dental fluorosis, Molar incisor hypomineralisation. Additionally, researchers have described the earliest stage of tooth decay as "chalky white spots", and an iconic toothpaste advertisement featuring school teacher Barbara Callcott used a chalk metaphor in this context.[1][2][7]

Causes of developmental types of chalky teeth

Developmental types of chalky teeth (i.e. those due to abnormal tooth development inside the jaw) are thought to reflect one or more Pathology disturbances, raising the prospect for medical prevention.[2][3][4] For example, enamel hypomineralisation and enamel hypoplasia are attributed to Traumatic injury or various medical conditions (e.g. fever, respiratory disease, vitamin D deficiency, adverse drug reaction), and dental fluorosis results from excessive consumption of fluoride during enamel development. Usually only one or several teeth are chalky in these instances where the primary cause isn't genetic – such Disease are often accessible to prevention. Conversely, amelogenesis imperfecta is a relatively rare genetic disorder that distinctively may cause all teeth to be chalky.[2][3][4]

Global health concerns about chalky teeth

Links between chalky teeth and accelerated tooth decay have long been recognised at academic and societal levels. Evidence that the commonest type of chalky teeth (termed "chalky molars" or molar hypomineralisation) affects 1-in-5 children worldwide makes this association particularly concerning.[1][2][3][4][5] In 2007, a Translational research and education network (The D3 Group for developmental dental defects) was formed to advocate for and facilitate research into the Therapy and prevention of chalky teeth. The D3 Group recognised that medico-dental research outcomes could lead to substantial reductions in childhood tooth decay and allied socioeconomic burdens. In 2013, they launched a public-awareness initiative (The Chalky Teeth Campaign) and an Distance education, aiming to increase understanding of this issue across society. Educational materials for non-specialist audiences, including a children's storybook about chalky molars, were central to this initiative. Subsequent activities involving public, professional and academic audiences have promoted "the fight against chalky teeth" as an attractive opportunity for jointly improving oral and Paediatrics health worldwide. "Chalky teeth" is thereby growing from a nebulous colloquialism into a Common good mission and translational nomenclature that's being incorporated into other languages.[1][2][3][4][5][8][9]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Hubbard MJ, Chalky teeth 100 years on: What comes next? J Am Dent Assoc. 2020 Nov;151(11):803-805. doi:10.1016/j.adaj.2020.07.022
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Hubbard MJ, Perez VA, Ganss B. 100 years of chalky teeth research: From pioneering histopathology to social good. Front Dent Med. 2020 (in press) doi: 10.3389/fdmed.2020.632534
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Perez VA, Mangum JE, Hubbard MJ. Pathogenesis of Molar Hypomineralisation: Aged Albumin Demarcates Chalky Regions of Hypomineralised Enamel. Front Physiol. 2020 Sep 30;11:579015. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2020.579015.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 Hubbard MJ, Mangum JE, Perez VA, Nervo GJ, Hall RK. (2017) Molar Hypomineralisation: A Call to Arms for Enamel Researchers. Frontiers in Physiology. 8: 546. doi:10.3389/fphys.2017.00546
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Hubbard MJ. (2018) Molar hypomineralization: What is the US experience? Journal of the American Dental Association. 149 (5): 329-330. doi:10.1016/j.adaj.2018.03.013
  6. Thomson, Julie R. (March 15, 2017). "So THAT'S Why Spinach Makes Your Teeth Feel Weird" – via Huff Post.
  7. Australian Television Archive (19 April 2016). Mrs Marsh - Colgate Fluorigard (Australia)Classic Commercial (1979) (youtube). Australia. Retrieved 28 June 2020.
  8. "Connection between "chalky teeth" in children (molar-incisor hypomineralisation, MIH) and the uptake of Bisphenol A not likely" (PDF). Bundesinstitut fur Risikobewertung. 3 August 2018. Retrieved 28 June 2020.
  9. "Dientes de tize una epidemia silenciosa que dana 1 de cada 6 ninos". Medical Press Espana. 26 August 2013. Retrieved 28 June 2020.

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