Are Weak Teeth Genetic?

are weak teeth genetic

Dental records are a snapshot of how we live, how we eat, and how we age.

Some people develop cavities more readily and rapidly than others, begging the question: Why? It’s a simple query, but the answer is as complicated as wellness itself.

If you suspect that your teeth are not as strong or vibrant as they could be, consider a consultation at Old Town Smiles. Conveniently located in Alexandria, Virginia, Old Town Smiles is mere minutes from Washington, D.C. For all of your questions and concerns about weak teeth and the ramifications that befall them, call (703) 836-7000. We are eager to listen and ready to help!

What Are Weak Teeth?

If you develop a crooked bite or experience frequent dental caries (cavities), then you may characterize your teeth as weak. To the layperson, all teeth are hard and immovable, so what does “weak” mean in relation to dentistry?

Enamel is the outermost layer of a tooth. It is the hardest material in the human body; it is even more impenetrable than bone.

Enamel, however, is subject to a daily barrage of decaying effects. Every time you chew, drink, or brush, you affect your enamel’s defenses. The acids in food and beverages can eat away at your teeth, and “weaker” enamel is more susceptible to damage than “stronger” samples. Before we bite into the root causes of weak teeth, let’s take a closer look at the forces that deteriorate them.


Scraping or grinding your teeth presents a direct threat to your enamel.

Chewing on pens, poking your chompers with a toothpick, and eating hard foods can cause abrasion. If your teeth are struggling to weather the storm of abrasive habits, then Dr. Ahmed can help. Dr. Seema Ahmed, has been recognized by Virginia Living and Northern Virginia magazines for her tireless approach to holistic dental health.


Dr. Ahmed can also address the decaying effects of erosion. Acidic foods, regurgitated bile, and other toxins work to erode the teeth over time. As plaque builds up along the gumline, it can eat away at the enamel coating of your pearly whites. If you didn’t have “weak teeth” before this onslaught of plaque, you may find yourself less fortunate as erosion sets in.

The scientific term for “weak teeth” is enamel hypoplasia.[1]

It is a genetic predisposition to having thin enamel that can be exacerbated through environmental and conditional dynamics. Since enamel does not contain any living cells, it cannot repair itself. Teeth covered with thin enamel are more vulnerable to cavities and breakage than stronger, well-coated teeth. If your smile is losing its luster, you may have enamel hypoplasia. Contact Old Town Smiles and ask how we can help.

Symptoms of “Weak Teeth”

It is impossible to detect enamel hypoplasia with the naked eye. The teeth may present themselves as healthy and bright, but a thin enamel is just a façade masking trouble ahead. It is important to pay close attention to your dental health before calamity strikes. The following symptoms may signify a case of enamel hypoplasia.

Textural Inconsistencies

When your enamel is thin, irregularities abound. Grooves and cracks may mar the surface of your teeth, causing vulnerabilities as they expand and deepen. You may also notice small pits developing on your enamel. These pits are a telltale sign of “weak teeth.”

Spots and/or Stains

The layer just beneath your enamel is called dentin. When enamel wears away, it may expose patches of dentin. These occurrences give teeth a brown, splotchy appearance. If this description characterizes your current look, then you may want to consider a teeth whitening session with Dr. Ahmed. But not all spots are as noticeable as exposed dentin. Tiny white patches may also be a symptom of enamel hypoplasia.

Pain and Sensitivity

Enamel is your first defense against the elements. When heat or cold bombards your teeth, enamel guards the nerves that mingle in your pulp (the layer under dentin). But weak teeth do not put up as virulent a fight against incoming stimuli as strong teeth. If you struggle with enamel hypoplasia, your teeth may react to coffee and/or ice cream with immediate pangs of pain. The acids in beverages and food items also disproportionately affect weak teeth. With less enamel to protect teeth, the forces of decay have less distance to travel, so they can cause cavities and other dental disarray.

Uneven Wear

Abrasion has a tendency to grind down all teeth. This process is expedited when your enamel is thin. Teeth wear down more easily when they are weak. Enamel hypoplasia may surface in the form of uneven, or “craggy” smiles. When your bite does not line up or make proper contact, it may be a symptom of weak teeth.

What Causes Enamel Hypoplasia?

The diagnosis of “weak teeth” is not a black and white one. It may stem from genetics, from nutritional deficiencies, or a mixture of nature and nurture. At Old Town Smiles, we approach every case with a balanced perspective. We study a patient’s medical history, delve into the specifics, and always keep the big picture in mind. To learn more about our dedication to excellence and satisfaction, please visit our blog.

Hereditary Factors of Weak Teeth

There are many genetic disorders that can result in enamel hypoplasia. One such condition is called amelogenesis imperfecta.[2] This affliction results from mutations in the FAM83H, MMP20, ENAM and AMELX genes. People stricken with amelogenesis imperfecta develop inordinately small teeth. These teeth are often cracked and pitted, susceptible to breakage and wear due to their lack of sufficient enamel.

Usher syndrome is another hereditary cause of enamel hypoplasia.[3]

The symptoms of Usher syndrome include severely underdeveloped teeth. In some cases, the teeth of an individual with Usher syndrome never grow past the gumline. It is a recessive disorder that requires specialized care and robust solutions.

Seckel syndrome is another inherited condition passed on through autosomal chromosomes.[4]

People with Seckel syndrome often develop a receding lower jaw that affects their overall dental health. If one’s teeth develop in a vastly uneven way, it could be a sign of otodental syndrome. Also known as otodental dysplasia, individuals who are born with this condition will experience a disproportionate growth in their molar and canine teeth. It is impossible for the enamel to evenly and fully cover the teeth of someone struggling with otodental syndrome, so the pitfalls of “weak teeth” may inevitably set in.

Contributing Environmental Conditions

The genetic causes of enamel hypoplasia outlined above may dovetail with certain environmental factors that amplify the complications of weak teeth. If you suffered trauma to your teeth early in life, then it can affect the formation and maintenance of your enamel.

An infection can derail the healthy progress of your teeth during your formative years. 

Vitamin and calcium deficiencies in one’s diet can massively contribute to the phenomenon of “weak teeth.” Liver disease and celiac disease are two other factors that may determine the persistence of enamel hypoplasia in your dental health. 

Prenatal Issues Related to Enamel Hypoplasia 

Some causes of “weak teeth” may occur before you are even born. When a mother engages in substance abuse or tobacco use, it can stunt the fetus’ ability to properly form enamel in utero. Improper prenatal care, such as a Vitamin D deficiency, can also result in enamel hypoplasia.

Schedule a Dental Consultation in Alexandria, Virginia

If the ramifications of week teeth are disturbing your smile, then we can help. Dr. Ahmed has amassed years of dental expertise. Their dedication to the science of satisfaction is unparalleled. If you live in Northern Virginia, or if you are visiting the Washington, D.C. area, please schedule a personalized consultation at your earliest convenience.



There are many hereditary conditions that may cause weak teeth, also known as enamel hypoplasia. If you have always wrestled with cracked teeth, cavities, or stains on the surface of your smile, please call (703) 836-7000.


Proper care is the best defense against tooth decay and deterioration. Brush regularly, avoid excessive sweets, and know your body. Even if you do everything the doctor orders, some dental problems are out of your control. If you struggle with “weak teeth,” then Old Town Smiles can help. Contact a helpful, knowledgeable member of our team and ask howDr. Seema Ahmed can alleviate your dental concerns.


  1. Seow, WK. (1991). Enamel hypoplasia in the primary dentition: a review. Asdc Journal of Dentistry for Children. 58(6):441-452. PMID: 1783694 
  2. Genetics Home Reference, retrieved from: 
  3. de la Peña, VA., Valea, MC. (2011). Treatment of enamel hypoplasia in a patient with Usher syndrome. The Journal of the American Dental Association. 142(8):938-41. DOI: 10.14219/jada.archive.2011.0300 
  4. Seckel Syndrome 1. Online Mendelian Inheritance in Man. 2015;
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