Hutchinson’s teeth primarily indicate congenital syphilis, which happens when syphilis gets transmitted from the mother to the baby in her uterus or at birth.
This condition becomes distinctive when the primary teeth of the infected child start to sprout. The incisor and the molars develop to get a triangular shape. They might also be widely spaced or might the enamel might not have any structural integrity.
Hutchinson’s teeth are a part of what is commonly known as the “Hutchinson triad,” comprising the teeth, ears, and eyes.
This condition was christened after Sir Jonathan Hutchinson, a surgeon and syphilis expert from England, who practiced at the London Hospital in the late 1800s.
As mentioned, Hutchinson’s teeth have gotten the name from the British surgeon, who was one to link the condition to congenital syphilis back in 1858. He was also responsible for detecting two other symptoms that come with congenital syphilis, making what is popularly known as Hutchinson’s triad:
Hutchinson teeth (incisors that are notched or pegged in appearance)
Interstitial ocular keratitis (redness and inflammation of the cornea of your eye)
Deafness in the eighth nerve (sensorineural hearing loss)
Stay with us till the end to find out more about Hutchinson’s teeth, and what you can do to prevent this condition.
Causes of Hutchinson’s teeth
The main cause of Hutchinson’s teeth is exposure to syphilis, which is a bacterial infection, mostly sexually transmitted, before or during birth.
Sexually transmitted as it is, it is known to begin as a sore on the skin of the genitals, rectum, or mouth. This infection then broadens its horizon through the mucous membrane or through direct skin content with these sores.
Syphilis sores might be painless in the initial stages of the infection. More often than not, some people don’t even realize that they have had it even for years. Other symptoms that you might want to watch out for:
- a full-body rash
- flu-like symptoms (fever, muscle aches, sore throat)
- hair loss
These symptoms are ever transient by nature.
Babies are mostly the ones who have the sword hanging on them of developing Hutchinson’s disease and other symptoms if the mother has had syphilis for less than a couple of years. the risk intensifies if the infection hasn’t been treated prior to the 18th week of pregnancy.
The exposure might occur while the baby is still in the womb through the placenta or during the delivery of the baby itself.
Symptoms Of Hutchinson’s Teeth
While new-born babies might not exhibit the immediate signs of syphilis exposure in the beginning, the symptoms only start to develop with age. Affected children might experience the triad that includes:
inner ear issues (labyrinthine disease) that may cause deafness
eye issues (interstitial keratitis) that involve inflammation of the cornea
teeth abnormalities (Hutchinson’s teeth)
You might not even notice Hutchinson’s teeth until the child is about 5 years old or their permanent teeth begin to sprout- whichever happens earlier. This condition mainly targets the permanent central incisors and molars.
Specific features include:
- peg-shaped with a crescent-shaped notch
- thinning or discoloration of enamel
- smaller teeth
- widely spaced teeth
if you are not sure whether or not the child is exhibiting characteristics of Hutchinson’s disease, do check with your pediatrician, dentist, or orthodontist.
Treating Hutchinson’s Teeth
For treating Hutchinson’s teeth, one needs to first visit a pediatrician for diagnosis and medication
A lumbar puncture or a blood test is often recommended to confirm a case of syphilis. Options to treat it includes a shot of penicillin. If you are infected for more than a year, your child might also need additional doses.
A tooth damage that is already there cannot be undone with medical attention. The process to correct is called dental restoration.
There are several options for treating teeth:
These are caps that the dentists attach to the teeth to bring them to normal size, shape, and overall functional order.
These false teeth help fill in the gaps between the teeth. Bridges are also designed to fix bite issues and restore the natural smile and shape of the face.
Dental fillings are a way to go to fill cavities or holes caused by weakened enamel and other ailments. They are a chemical amalgamation of the composite material (tooth color), silver or gold.
These are usually titanium metal post that is surgically attached to be used as a base for the crowns or bridges. Implants have to wait until the complete development of the jaw, which doesn’t happen till late teenage or early adulthood.
Consult your dentist to find out more about the kind of treatments that are best suited for your child. If you are worried about the expenses, then it is wise to contact your insurance company and talk to them and find out about your coverage.
Preventing Hutchinson’s Teeth
The best way to prevent Hutchinson’s teeth is to get your syphilis treated prior to getting pregnant or planning to get pregnant. You might not show any noticeable symptoms, so it is always wise to get tested before getting pregnant, for the sake of the baby.
To be specific, you might want to get tested for syphilis and other STIs if:
- If you have another STI. Having one puts you at greater risk of developing others.
- If you’ve not practiced safe sex and had multiple sexual partners since the last testing.
- If you’re pregnant or planning on becoming pregnant.
- It is imported to get rid of syphilis before the 16th or 18th week of pregnancy. Post that period, even if the disease is cured, the babies might still be born with irreversible deafness, eye issues, and bone and joint issues like Hutchinson’s disease itself.
Regular Dental Care
It is important that you take good care of your child’s precious pearls after they have sprouted, irrespective of their shape, size, and order. The American Dental Association recommends the following guidelines to take care of your teeth:
- Brush twice every day with a fluoride-based toothpaste.
- Floss between teeth daily, at least once.
- Limit sugary beverages and snacks.
- Consider using a mouthwash that also contains fluoride.
- See a dentist every six months or twice a year.
While Hutchinson’s disease is irreversible in nature, it is important to limit and treat the underlying cause- syphilis, to prevent other correlated health issues that might accompany it.
After the permanent set of teeth has sprouted, you can consult your dental health expert or your child’s pediatrician about the available cosmetic procedures to correct the appearance of the teeth to some extent.
Please get checked for syphilis if you’re pregnant or are planning to get pregnant, if you are suspicious that you might have been exposed to it. This helps you to seek early treatments to save the baby from getting infected.