Every wants white teeth, but we generally want them uniformly white, not just peppered here and there with white splotches or lines. There are a few common causes of these isolated white spots, and this blog will explore each one, including ways you can help lessen their appearance.
Causes of White Spots
In general, an isolated white spot on tooth enamel is an indication that there is a problem with that area of enamel. The matrix of minerals in a white spot is different from that in the rest of the tooth. In most cases, white spots are weaker and more susceptible to cavities because of this change in the mineral content. Here are the three most common causes of white spots.
Demineralization is a big word for softened or weakened, when it comes to tooth enamel. This occurs as the result of damage from the acid produced by bacteria in the mouth. These bacteria collect in large clumps within dental plaque, so when plaque remains on the teeth for any extended period of time, the bacteria can soften enamel through their acid production.
This occurs most commonly in two areas: a) around orthodontic brackets, and b) near the gumline.
When people wear braces, the brackets provide an easy collection area for plaque and a very difficult environment to clean. When patients in braces do not adequately clean around each bracket, and plaque stays on the teeth, the result is demineralization. Unfortunately, it is almost imperceptible until the braces come off. Then you can see a small outline of where the brackets were, created by lines of demineralization or “white spots”.
Another difficult area to clean is the area where the gums meet each tooth. If the toothbrush bristles do not touch the gumline during brushing, or if a person suffers from dry mouth leading to excessive plaque buildup in this area, small crescent-shaped white spots can result.
These white spots are 100% preventable!
Some white spots result from an incomplete or defective formation of enamel when the body makes a tooth, before it ever comes into the mouth. These enamel defects may be the result of health problems, like a high fever, when the permanent tooth is forming. They can also occur when a developing permanent tooth sustains damage from an injury to a baby tooth. Regardless of the cause, this type of white spot is almost impossible to prevent.
Depending on the cause, the shape and size of the white spot will vary.
Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral that can help strengthen tooth enamel and resist cavities. However, there can be too much of a good thing! There are some areas of the country in which the high levels of natural fluoride in the ground leads to too much fluoride in the drinking water. If someone receives too much fluoride while a tooth is forming, the tooth may develop white splotches or stripes.
This condition is called fluorosis and can also lead to brown or gray spots. Unlike the white spots of demineralization or enamel defects, fluorosis white spots are usually not weaker areas on the tooth. In some cases, these teeth are actually more resistant to cavities.
How to Make White Spots Less Obvious
There are several techniques you can use to improve the appearance of white spots. It is important to understand the cause of your white spots before you attempt to improve them.
Demineralization of the Enamel due to Plaque Buildup
The way to fight white spots caused by demineralization is to work toward re-mineralization. You can remineralize teeth by applying certain minerals on a consistent basis. Your dentist will have information on specific techniques available for fighting your demineralization. These will include: professional fluoride treatments, prescription pastes or gels containing minerals like calcium and phosphate, or unique toothpastes containing nano-hydroxyapatite.
While attempting to remineralize areas on the teeth, having great oral hygiene and keeping up with consistent professional teeth cleanings is of the utmost importance. In order to remineralize, you not only have to work on the areas that have already demineralized; you have to keep the plaque away so new areas do not form!
Many enamel defects will require dental restorations if the surface is not intact. If a pit, crack or depression is present, your dentist will restore it with a perfectly matching, tooth-colored filling.
If the surface of the defect is intact and only discolored, then there are some different treatment options available for improving the appearance. These are generally non-invasive and give a good long-term result. You can always opt to cover the defect with a veneer, which is slightly more invasive but provides perfect long-term coverage.
Too Much Fluoride
You can alter the appearance of splotchy fluorosis with teeth whitening. It is very important to note that the appearance of the white spots may get worse (more obvious) before it gets better. At first, during the teeth whitening process, everything will whiten evenly, meaning white spots will get whiter, too. Then, the rest of the tooth will start to catch up.
After consistent teeth whitening, the overall appearance of your teeth will even out, looking consistently bright and white.
Fluorosis is difficult to whiten, so you definitely want to utilize the supervision of your dentist and his professional whitening products to get the best result!
More Questions about White Spots?
Call 940-382-1750 today to schedule a consultation with Dr. Chowning. He can investigate your specific white spots to determine the best course of action in improving their appearance.