You may have heard people talk about “white spots” on teeth, especially when discussing orthodontic treatment. What most people don’t realize is that, while these pesky spots can certainly occur during orthodontic treatment, they can also be present in people who have never had treatment as well. Today’s blog post will dive a little deeper into what exactly these “white spots” are, what causes them, and what, if anything, can be done to minimize their appearance.
What Are White Spots?
You’re probably wondering – what the heck even are those white spots on my teeth?
They could be one of a few different things. Below you’ll find a few of the causes of white spots on teeth:
Cause #1 – Demineralization
Also known as decalcification, this is the process by which the mineral content (primarily calcium and phosphate) of the tooth structure is lost, leading to the breakdown of the tooth enamel and dentin. This can occur when the mouth’s pH becomes too acidic, allowing for the dissolution of these minerals.
Demineralization often occurs due to the presence of bacteria in the mouth, which produce acids as they metabolize sugar and other carbohydrates. These acids can eat away at the tooth enamel and dentin, leading to cavities and tooth decay.
Demineralization can also occur due to other factors, such as dry mouth, certain medications, and medical conditions that affect the production of saliva. In some cases, external factors such as excessive brushing, acidic foods or drinks, and exposure to environmental pollutants can lead to demineralization.
Cause # 2 – Enamel Hypoplasia
Enamel hypoplasia is a condition that causes a thin or absent enamel covering on the teeth. It affects approximately 1 in 14,000 people and can manifest during childhood or adulthood. Enamel hypoplasia can arise due to a number of different factors. Some of these include:
- inadequate nutrition,
- a high fever during an illness
- smoking while pregnant
- premature birth
- certain medications
- tooth injury
Cause #3 – Fluorosis
Fluorosis is a dental condition that results from overexposure to fluoride during tooth development. It is characterized by a range of changes in the appearance of tooth enamel, such as white or brown stains, mottling, and pitting.
Fluoride is a mineral that is found in water, soil, and some foods. While fluoride is essential for maintaining healthy teeth and preventing tooth decay, excessive exposure can cause fluorosis. This typically occurs during childhood, when the teeth are still developing.
The severity of fluorosis can vary depending on the level of exposure to fluoride. Mild fluorosis may result in barely noticeable white specks or streaks on the teeth, while severe fluorosis can cause brown stains, surface irregularities, and tooth erosion.
Okay, so what do I do about it?
Now that you know a few of the causes of those white spots on your teeth, let’s get down to brass tacks – what do we do to avoid them?
Method #1 – Practice great oral hygiene!
The first method is likely pretty unsurprising. Doctor Clauss and the team here at Clauss Orthodontics are always going to recommend this first method! For many of the common causes of white spots, in particular demineralization, a surefire way to avoid those unsightly white spots is to have a solid oral hygiene routine that you practice each day! This means brushing at least twice daily for at least two minutes per session. Be sure and brush your teeth with a soft-bristled toothbrush, and keep the bristles at a 45-degree angle while brushing. This ensures that you get the most out of each session!
Don’t forget to floss! Flossing is an important but often-overlooked part of any solid oral hygiene routine. In fact, it turns out that, according to the National Library of Medicine, up to 80% of dental plaque can be removed by a great daily flossing routine – that’s not too shabby!
Method #2: Limit sugary and acidic foods and drinks
One helpful tip is to reduce your intake of sugary and acidic foods and drinks, including soda, juice, sports drinks, and candy. These can increase the acidity in the mouth and lead to demineralization. This, in turn, leads to those nasty white spots! A good rule of thumb when it comes to sugary drinks like soda and sports drinks is no more than 1 liter per week for adults or no more than 8-12 ounces per week for children and young teens.
Of course, the best thing to do is to cut out excess sugary drinks altogether and drink more water, but we’d be lying if we said we didn’t love the occasional soda! Remember, though; it’s important to enjoy snacks like that in moderation and always consult your doctor for good advice that’s tailored to your specific health requirements.
Method # 3 – Fluoride Treatment
Assuming that your white spots aren’t caused by fluorosis (in which case, this is definitely not the treatment for you!) Dr. Clauss or your dentist may recommend fluoride treatments to attempt to minimize your white spots. This is particularly effective in the event that you suffer from enamel hypoplasia or similar disorders.
Remember, if you’re not happy and would like to find out how orthodontics can “tune-up” your smile, remember to contact us for a complimentary consultation. Dr. Clauss will be happy to discuss the various options available to give you the smile you’ve always wanted.