Look at your teeth in the mirror. Do they all appear the same shade of white, or do you notice small inconsistencies in color? Many times, if you look closely, you’ll see small white spots dotting your teeth in seemingly random places. These spots can be barely noticeable, or they can be big enough that they cause you daily frustration.
When you first noticed these infamous white spots, you might have tried to up your oral hygiene routine, or even use an over-the-counter whitening product to try and allay the problem. Before diving into a world of whitening products, however, it’s important to understand the root cause of these spots and what can be done to prevent them.
Keep reading to learn more about what causes them and what—if anything—can be done once you notice them.
Overgrowth of bacteria
Among other causes, white spots on the teeth can from an accumulation of bacterial plaque. This is the result of poor dental hygiene, such as not brushing or flossing on a regular basis. Bacteria in the mouth thrive in a highly–acidic environment like the one you sport after eating foods high in sugar or other carbohydrates. And mixing poor eating habits with a lax oral health routine will catalyze the growth of bacteria.
This sticky combination can lead to white spots on the teeth. Bacterial plaque buildup can also occur as a side effect of wearing braces. When braces are removed, the buildup of plaque deposits underneath the bracket might have already left their stain. This is another reason it’s important to carefully monitor your diet and increase your efforts when you have braces.
As with all things in life, too much of a good thing can be harmful.
Although fluoride is an essential tool to fighting cavities, I’s important to be on the lookout for dental fluorosis. This condition is usually seen prior to age eight, and is caused by getting too much fluoride when the teeth are forming in the gums. In developing teeth, extra fluoride can have a harmful effect, causing decay and discoloration. To minimize the risk, use the appropriate amount of toothpaste and teach your children how to spit it out instead of swallowing.
The American Academy of Pediatrics still points to the benefits of fluoride and officially recommends choosing a toothpaste for children that contains fluoride. It’s recommended to choose a fluorinated toothpaste for children as soon as they get their first tooth. Since children this young lack the ability to spit out excess, it is important to only use a rice–grain–sized amount on the toothbrush. This will allow for distribution on the teeth and begin forming the cavity-fighting layers. Fluoride toothpastes has been shown to reduce cavities in kids by 15 to 30 percent.
Enamel is the material that covers the outer layer of the tooth—and is the hardest substance in the body. The purpose of enamel is to protect the teeth from outside invaders like decay. When enamel erosion occurs, the enamel is worn away and leaves your tooth susceptible to damage caused by acids or bad bacteria.
The condition of enamel hypoplasia occurs when an individual has less enamel than normal. This is often a direct result of a nutritional deficiency that causes mineral loss in the tooth. Many times, those who suffer from autoimmune diseases also suffer from enamel hypoplasia, since the body is taking in all the nutrients and there is a deficiency left for the teeth.
Your diet is another factor that can also cause white spots on your teeth. If you find yourself eating highly acidic foods like citrus fruits, but in excess, that diet could be eating away at the enamel on your teeth. A diet high in sugar also causes the formation of acidic plaque, which can erode enamel. To limit the prevalence of white spots, it’s important to cut down on the amount of acidic food you eat. And when you do choose to indulge (we all will at some point), make sure to brush your teeth after!
Can you remove the white spots?
If you notice white spots on your teeth, the first thing you should do is to make an appointment with your dentist to have things evaluated. Some spots are easier to get rid of than others, so it’s important to have a professional evaluation.
The first option to remove spots is bleaching. Bleaching teeth refers to whitening teeth beyond their natural color. Active ingredients like hydrogen peroxide and carbamide peroxide are bleaching agents most often used in these processes. Through the bleaching, the tooth’s color is lightened to match the white spots on the tooth. Another option that is available if bleaching does not work or isn’t an option is the use of veneers. Porcelain veneers are thin shells of medical-grade ceramic that are used to recreate the natural look of teeth while also strengthening the tooth. Each individual veneer is uniquely crafted for a patient. This ensures your smile remains natural. Veneers allow for small adjustments to the color, tooth size or shape, and position of the tooth.
How to prevent white spots
Just like with most things, the best thing you can do is practice excellent oral hygiene. Not only does this include brushing twice a day, but also trying to brush after every meal. This will help prevent acids from lingering on your teeth.
If you have braces, a Waterpik helps remove plaque that accumulates around the brackets of braces and between teeth. Your dentist might also recommend toothpaste designed to re–mineralize enamel and protect your teeth from white spots.
For children, as it was mentioned above, it’s important to continue to use a fluoridated toothpaste, but monitor how much is being used to help ward off fluorosis.
And finally, watch what you eat. Limit high acid, sugar and carbohydrate foods. Not only will this help your waistline, it will also help prevent plague buildup that can lead to white spots on the teeth.