In the lead up to the FDI World Dental Congress in Shanghai, FDI World Dental Federation spoke to Prof. Dr Katrin Bekes, head of the Department of Paediatric Dentistry at the Medical University of Vienna. Dr Bekes has roots in conservative dentistry. In her early career, she explored quality-of-life research and treated many patients with severe dentin hypersensitivity. While she’s been a paediatric dentist for nearly fifteen years now, she maintains a strong focus on quality-of-life concerns.

Dr Bekes discusses molar incisor hypomineralization, the topic of her lecture at the congress in Shanghai (She will give a second lecture on early childhood caries). Despite a murky understanding of the cause of MIH within the oral health community, Dr Bekes proposes a series of effective treatment options that prioritize the child patient’s quality of life. 

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. 


Head of the Department of Paediatric Dentistry at the Medical University of Vienna
Prof. Katrin Bekes

How do you define molar incisor hypomineralization (MIH)?

We all know that this is a growing subject in paediatric dentistry. It is defined as a hypomineralization of systemic origin, which affects one to four permanent first molars and is frequently associated with affected incisors. The term was founded in 2001. Global knowledge of the condition has increased over the years, which is reflected in a rising number of studies focused on this dental anomaly.

"Around the world, the MIH prevalence is about 13 percent." 

Clinically, affected teeth show a hypomineralization that can be seen as an alteration in the translucency of the enamel. It can vary in color shade from white to yellow or brown. Affected molars can represent a spectrum of severity and extension of the defect, from hardly visible opacities to severe destruction of the enamel as the porous enamel can easily chip off, especially under the influence of masticatory forces. Furthermore, affected teeth might show hypersensitivity.

What causes MIH?

The causes are not clarified yet: the aetiology is still unknown.

"Several hypotheses have been proposed, including childhood illness, use of amoxicillin, or exposure to environmental toxins (BPAs). MIH seems to be a phenomenon of our time."

However, there is still conjecture on what the causative factors are. The problem is that we cannot diagnose MIH before eruption.  

How do you effectively treat MIH?

As we cannot currently prevent MIH from happening, we focus on a good treatment concept.

"When parents come to our clinic, we tell them that we cannot change their child’s medical or illness history, but we can help them heal through a range of therapy strategies."

The available treatment modalities for teeth with MIH are extensive, ranging from prevention and restoration to extraction. The suitability of these, however, differs depending on a number of factors. Commonly identified factors are severity of the condition (e.g. extent of the defective enamel and quality of both the defective enamel and the unaffected parts of the tooth), presence of symptoms (with or without association of hypersensitivity), the patient’s dental age, and the child/parent’s social background and expectations.

It is very important to start approaching affected children with appropriate preventive advice. The preventive approach includes thorough oral hygiene with fluoride toothpaste as well as the application of other topical fluoride varnishes. Casein phosphopeptide- amorphous calcium phosphate (CPP-ACP) oral care products are similarly recommended for remineralization and desensitization. Severe cases of MIH with cavitated structural defects can be restored directly using glass-ionomer cements (temporarily) and resin composite (definitively) or indirectly (using ceramic, composite or metal restorations).

What are some of the challenges you face in treating children with MIH?

Patients affected by MIH present several clinical problems, including rapid wear, enamel loss, increased susceptibility to caries, loss of fillings, and most of all, severe hypersensitivity that often results in severe discomfort. Children often report that toothbrushing, air flow, and hot, cold, or sweet drinks and foods cause sensitivity. During the dental examination, behavior management problems and even dental fear are common.

"There is no doubt that a holistic approach should be considered when formulating a treatment plan."

This treatment plan should incorporate a short, as well as long-term approach, keeping in mind the coping skills of the child and avoiding repeated treatment as much as possible.

Find out more...

The World Dental Congress (WDC) is a flagship event for FDI, strengthening ties and fostering collaboration within the global oral health community.

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