Why Do My Teeth Look Splotchy after Braces?

The day you get your braces off is a time of celebration!  You have undergone months or years of treatment and finally achieved your beautiful, straightened smile.  Unfortunately, that day is not always positive.  Some people discover, after the removal of braces, that their teeth have developed a splotchiness due to the appearance of white spots.  This blog will explain why that is.

What Causes Those Splotchy White Spots?

The cause of these white spots on the teeth is a process called demineralization. Demineralization occurs when acid weakens and softens the outermost layer of enamel, removing the hard minerals and causing a bright, chalky white spot.

Demineralization is the first step in the cavity process.  Cavity-causing bacteria in dental plaque ingest sugar and produce acid.  When that plaque remains on the teeth for an extended period of time, the acid damages that area of enamel.

During orthodontic treatment, plaque buildup around the brackets is common.  Braces provide multiple hiding spots for dental plaque on the flat surface of the teeth facing the lips and cheeks.

Splotchy, white spots are the result of poor plaque control while wearing braces.

What Increases the Risk for White Spots?

These white spots result from plaque buildup around the brackets.  We all accumulate dental plaque on the teeth all day every day.  There are a few factors that can make you more likely to experience white spots after braces.

  1. Poor Plaque Control – It can be difficult to remove all of the dental plaque around the brackets during orthodontic treatment. It often requires the use of additional oral hygiene tools, like an electric toothbrush, specialty flossers, or interdental brushes.  Your dental hygienist can demonstrate the right way to clean around your brackets during ortho.  Good plaque control reduces your risk of white spots.
  2. Dry Mouth – In a dry mouth, plaque becomes stickier and more difficult to remove. A lack of saliva also allows the pH inside the mouth to drop to an acidic level.  When the oral environment is already acidic, it takes less plaque to cause demineralization on the teeth.
  3. Acidic Diet – If you frequently consume acidic foods and beverages, you may have a higher risk for white spots. Just like in the scenario of a dry mouth, this creates an acidic environment in the mouth, making it easier for bacteria to cause demineralization.
  4. Lack of Fluoride – Fluoride is an important mineral that strengthens and hardens tooth structure. It can actually reverse the process of demineralization and promotes the opposite: remineralization. Fluoride helps protect your enamel against the attacks of acid.  Those who do not have fluoride in their drinking water or use fluoride-free toothpaste have a higher risk for white spots.

How Can I Prevent White Spots from Braces?

We can prevent these white spots and splotchy appearance of the teeth by protecting our enamel against acid.  This will involve counteracting the risk factors listed in the previous section.

  1. Maintain Great Oral Hygiene – It takes a little more effort during braces, but great plaque control is essential! If you work diligently to maintain great oral hygiene, following your dental hygienist’s instructions, you can protect your teeth against demineralization.
  2. Support Healthy Saliva – Saliva is essential to maintaining good oral health and a neutral or slightly alkaline pH in the mouth. Your body cannot make adequate saliva if you are dehydrated.  Make sure to drink plenty of plain water, and use additional oral care products designed to fight dry mouth.
  3. Avoid Acidic Foods and Drinks – In order to preserve a neutral pH in your mouth during orthodontic treatment, you should avoid acidic foods and drinks. If you must drink a soda, fruit juice or sports drink, do so quickly and follow it by rinsing your mouth with plain water.  Siping on acidic drinks holds your mouth at an acidic pH and increases the risk for demineralization.  Stick with water between meals!
  4. Add Fluoridated Oral Care Products – Fluoride protects your teeth from white spots and cavities. You should always use a fluoridated toothpaste, and during orthodontic treatment, you should add a fluoride mouthrinse.  Colgate’s PhosFlur aims to protect the teeth against demineralization around orthodontic brackets with a great concentration of fluoride.  Ask your dentist what other products you can use to preserve the health of your enamel during braces.

More Questions about Maintaining Great Dental Health during Braces?

Call Timberlake Dental at 940-382-1750 to schedule a consultation with Dr. Chowning.  He can answer any question you have about braces and how to keep your teeth healthy underneath them!