Developmental defects of enamel and dentine: challenges for basic science research and clinical management

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Abnormalities of enamel and dentine are caused by a variety of interacting factors ranging from genetic defects to environmental insults. The genetic changes associated with some types of enamel and dentine defects have been mapped, and many environmental influences, including medical illnesses that can damage enamel and dentine have been identified. Developmental enamel defects may present as enamel hypoplasia or hypomineralization while dentine defects frequently demonstrate aberrant calcifications and abnormalities of the dentine-pulp complex. Clinically, developmental enamel defects often present with problems of discolouration and aesthetics, tooth sensitivity, and susceptibility to caries, wear and erosion. In contrast, dentine defects are a risk for endodontic complications resulting from dentine hypomineralization and pulpal abnormalities. The main goals of managing developmental abnormalities of enamel and dentine are early diagnosis and improvement of appearance and function by preserving the dentition and preventing complications. However, despite major advances in scientific knowledge regarding the causes of enamel and dentine defects, further research is required in order to translate the knowledge gained in the basic sciences research to accurate clinical diagnosis and successful treatment of the defects.

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