You may have noticed small bumps on your teeth when you look in the mirror, or perhaps on your child’s teeth when you look at them closely. Dentists have a name for those little bumps: mamelons. Are mamelons normal, or is something wrong?
Mamelons are small ridges on the tips of the upper and lower 4 front teeth, which gives them a scalloped appearance. They’re not harmful and usually wear down and go away as you get older. If you’re worried about how mamelons make your teeth look, your dentist can offer treatments.
What teeth can have mamelons?
Mamelons appear on the incisors, the flat teeth at the front of the mouth. The rounded protuberances are usually found on the adult teeth (permanent teeth), although some children have them on their baby teeth (also called milk, deciduous, or primary teeth).
Mamelons appear most often on the maxillary central incisors (the upper 2 front teeth), but they can appear on any of the other incisors as well.
What Mamelons Look Like
Mamelons look like little bumps on the incisal edge of the upper and lower front teeth. Genetics determine most of their shape and size. Mamelon shape and number among children varies more on the top teeth than the bottom teeth.
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What are mamelons? Why do they appear?
Mamelons are small extensions of enamel, the hard outermost layer of the tooth. As the tooth develops, the enamel grows out toward the edge of the tooth. As the tooth finishes growing, small bumps or protrusions of enamel form at the end, creating a scalloped look.
A vast majority of children (more than 90%) have mamelons on their permanent incisors. The mamelons gradually wear down as they use their teeth to bite during normal chewing. In most cases, the incisors appear smooth by early adulthood, depending on how the person chews.
Mamelon Frequently Asked Questions
With the prevalence of mamelons, it’s common to hear questions about them. Here are some of the most-asked queries.
- How are mamelons formed on teeth? Mamelons are formed on teeth as they develop in the jaw. The front side of each incisor develops as 3 separate lobes that eventually fuse together. Mamelons form when the lobes don’t fuse completely at the tip of the tooth.
- What is the purpose of mamelons? Most scientists agree that the purpose of mamelons is to help teeth break through the gums when they erupt, though there is still some debate on why they develop. Mamelons can also make it easier to bite and shear off pieces of food.
- Why do my teeth have mamelons? Your teeth have mamelons because your genetic code caused your teeth to develop them. Your parents probably had mamelons, too. Mamelons can be advantageous to young children because they can help with teething and chewing.
- What is the difference between mamelons and ridges? The difference between mamelons and ridges is placement: mamelons are on the chewing edge of incisors, and ridges are a generic term that can be used for any bumps on the teeth.
How Long Mamelons Last
Mamelons typically begin to wear down within months of teeth erupting through the gums. They usually wear away by the time a child turns 10. However, it’s not uncommon for children to have mamelons into their teens, particularly if the mamelons were large to begin with.
Females are more likely to have mamelons that don’t wear away when they chew than males.
Mamelons also tend to stay around longer if you have a bite problem or occlusion like:
- Anterior open bite, when the front teeth from touching when the mouth is closed.
- Overbite or deep bite, a malocclusion in which the top front teeth largely overhang and cover the bottom teeth.
- Underbite, or when the front lower teeth sit in front of the front upper teeth.
- Crossbite, when some teeth are in an underbite position and others are in an overbite position.
Orthodontic treatment can help correct these bite problems, which would allow the teeth to chew correctly and eventually wear down tooth mamelons naturally.
Mamelons Removal: How It’s Done
Dentists frequently remove mamelons by contouring the edge of the front teeth. It’s also called tooth reshaping or recontouring. Mamelon removal typically doesn’t require an anesthetic, so it’s a painless and relatively simple procedure.
To prepare for tooth reshaping, your dentist will take x-rays of your front teeth to ensure that your child is a good candidate for the procedure and the enamel is thick enough and avoid exposing the dentin layer underneath the enamel.
During reshaping, the dentist will gently file or grind away the enamel at the very edge of the tooth. They may use a dental file, a disk, or a drill to remove the enamel and smooth the edge, removing the mamelons in the process.
Dentists specializing in cosmetic dentistry and pediatric dentistry do most tooth reshaping. If you’re considering having your child’s mamelons removed, be sure their dentist has experience contouring teeth so they can have the best smile possible.
Almost all mamelons will disappear on their own with time, so if your child has them, it can be beneficial to wait before opting for a procedure.
Pros And Cons Of Mamelon Removal
It’s important to note that most mamelons wear away over time without any intervention. This means that for many children, a procedure to remove mamelons is unnecessary. However, if they persevere into adulthood or are causing your child distress, tooth reshaping is available.
Here are some common reasons why it’s done:
- Tooth reshaping can help improve your child’s self-esteem if they’re self-conscious about their mamelons.
- It’s a cost-effective way to improve the beauty of your child’s smile.
- There’s no recovery time.
The potential drawbacks of mamelon removal include:
- It may not be the right treatment option if your child has very large, deep mamelons or thin enamel.
- The reshaped areas may be sensitive for a while, particularly to cold or acidic foods and drinks. (Proper dental care and using a hydroxyapatite toothpaste can help combat sensitivity if it develops.)
- Your child could be at a higher risk of their teeth breaking.
- Your child may be more likely to develop cavities where the enamel has been removed.
- Most mamelons disappear naturally with no need for surgery.
Because mamelon removal is a cosmetic procedure, it’s usually not covered by insurance. Most patients pay between $50 and $500 out of pocket per tooth for tooth reshaping.
Ways To Support Developing Teeth
Just like the rest of the tooth, mamelons form long before teeth erupt through the gums. A vital part of giving your child healthy teeth is supporting the development of new teeth long before you can even see them.
Here are some ways you can help your child develop healthy teeth:
- Eat whole foods: The food your child eats becomes the teeth and bones in their body. They need plenty of calcium and vitamins that help their teeth grow and stay strong, like vitamin D3 and vitamin K2.
- Good oral hygiene: Healthy baby teeth are essential to developing healthy adult teeth. Be sure your child is brushing their teeth at least twice a day with a soft toothbrush and flossing at least once a day. Flossing is imperative to prevent cavities between teeth.
- Use hydroxyapatite toothpaste: Hydroxyapatite toothpaste works just as well as fluoride toothpaste without the nasty side effects. It will help restore the enamel of your child’s teeth and prevent tooth decay. Brushing your teeth also helps prevent gum disease.
- Use a high-quality probiotic: Probiotics help keep the healthy microbes in your mouth and body healthy. Your microbiome keeps your body, teeth, and gums healthy, so be sure to take care of it!
- Curb snacking: Constant snacking gives cavity-causing bacteria the fuel they need to grow and damage your child’s teeth. (Even non-sugary snacks like crackers can feed pathogenic bacteria!) Snack on whole foods and in moderation to help prevent cavities.
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Taking proper care of your child’s teeth as they develop and emerge is an investment in their future health. It’s much easier to maintain healthy teeth and treat possible root causes than to fix the issues that come with dental decay.
If your child has mamelons, they will likely disappear with time. If not, minimally invasive procedures are available to treat this minor cosmetic issue.