While most people want bright white teeth, they usually want their teeth to have consistent coloring too. This is why white spots on teeth can be such a problem from a cosmetic standpoint. What’s more, white spots can often be a sign of underlying issues that require attention, particularly in children.
This helpful overview will help you better understand the causes of white spots on teeth, the most effective treatment options, and the steps anyone can take to prevent them.
What are White Spots on Teeth?
Also called white spot lesions, white spots on the teeth are visibly lighter areas on the teeth. This can occur in both children and adults. While this can be a cosmetic issue, it can also be an early sign of dental problems, such as tooth decay. The good news is these spots can often be reversed depending on the underlying causes.
What Causes White Spots on Teeth?
White spots on teeth can be caused by a combination of natural and environmental factors, including:
- Fluorosis: Caused by ingesting too much fluoride. While fluoride has been proven to help prevent tooth decay, overconsumption can cause discoloration in white spots. This can include taking fluoride supplements or accidentally or intentionally swallowing toothpaste.
- Enamel hypoplasia: A defect where the enamel is thinner than normal. This is a relatively rare condition that may be caused by genetic factors, poor diet, or as a side effect of an illness.
- Demineralization: Caused by areas of decalcification, often due to bacteria and plaque. While we typically think of tooth decay as causing brown or yellow discoloration, in some cases, white spots may be a sign of early cavities.
White spots can also appear on the teeth of people who have worn braces and had them removed. This is why proper oral hygiene is critical for anyone wearing orthodontic devices.
If you notice white spots on your or your child’s teeth, it is important to see a dentist for guidance on diagnosis and treatment.
Diagnosing and Treating White Spots on Teeth
Your dentist or your child’s pediatric dentist can perform an examination to identify the factors causing white spots on your teeth. Steps may include a visual exam, questions about specific hygiene habits and when the spots began to appear, and potentially diagnostic imagery such as an X-ray.
Depending on the cause and severity of the white spots, dentists may recommend several effective treatment options. These include:
- Topical fluoride: Fluoride applied directly to the teeth can help strengthen enamel and help with discoloration. This is recommended in cases where demineralization or thin enamel causes uneven spots and not fluorosis. In the case of fluorosis, dentists may recommend using fluoride-free toothpaste or water, at least temporarily.
- Whitening procedures: Bleach-based whitening or other types of cosmetic procedures can help even the coloring of the tooth enamel. Whitening procedures can be performed in-office at the dentist or through at-home treatments. Talk to your or your child’s dentist to determine which may suit your situation.
- Microabrasion: This technique gently removes a small layer of surface enamel to even out coloring and address white spots.
- Veneers: Veneers may be recommended in more severe cases of staining or white spots that don’t respond to other treatments. Veneers are thin, custom-made devices usually made from porcelain or other ceramics and bonded to the front of the teeth. Veneers can give the teeth a natural appearance and help prevent stains.
In some cases, your dentist may advise using preventive measures to see if the white spots can improve on their own over time.
Preventing White Spots on Teeth
White spots can often be prevented and improved through good oral hygiene and lifestyle factors. Specific prevention steps include:
- Be aware of fluoride sources and limit overexposure
- Brush and floss properly and regularly
- See your dentist for regularly scheduled visits
Drinking plenty of water and avoiding sugary drinks and snacks is also important to avoid weakening the enamel. These steps can help prevent tooth decay and help you and your child limit the risk of developing white spots.
Keep Your Family’s Teeth Healthy with the Help of AC Pediatric Dentistry
Going to the dentist can be scary — we get it. But it should be fun! Whether it’s care for baby teeth, big kid teeth, oral surgery, or orthodontics, our team of specialized pediatric dentists make the experience memorable while teaching you how to encourage healthy habits and good hygiene for lifelong smiles. Call us today or request an appointment online. We can’t wait to meet you!