What Causes White Spots on Teeth?
Do you have white spots on your teeth? If so, you may be wondering what causes white spots on teeth and if there is a treatment to get rid of them. Often, the spots are very subtle and may not even be noticeable to anyone but your dentist. But in some people, they can be more pronounced and can cause them to feel self-conscious about how their teeth look. In this article, we’ll go over the potential causes of white spots and what can be done if you have them. Discolored teeth can happen for a variety of reasons, including your age, diet, and certain health conditions. One very common reason for white spots and streaks in the enamel of your teeth is Fluorosis. Until about age eight, our permanent teeth are forming below our gums. Fluoride is beneficial to our teeth during this time. It helps strengthen enamel and helps protect us from tooth decay. But if a child has too much fluoride when teeth are developing, there is a risk the permanent teeth will come through the gums with the white spots and streaks known as Fluorosis. The most common cause of Fluorosis is a long period of exposure to fluoridated water. The spots can also happen if a child regularly ingests dental health care products like toothpaste and mouthwash containing fluoride. This is one reason it is important to restrict the use of products containing fluoride until a child is old enough to understand not to swallow their toothpaste, and to continue to supervise the use of tooth care products in young children. The good news is Fluorosis isn’t a disease, and it doesn’t affect the function of your teeth. In fact, according to experts from the American Dental Association, it may even make teeth more resistant to decay. To help your child avoid Fluorosis, consult with your dentist on the types of oral health products to use for your child’s stage of development. Exclusive breastfeeding of babies is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics and is a great way to control the amount of Fluoride your infant is consuming. If your baby is not able to breastfeed, consult your pediatrician or dentist for formula feeding strategies that can reduce the risk for developing spots on the teeth caused by Fluorosis.
Another common reason for irregularities in the enamel of our teeth is something called Enamel Hypoplasia. This condition happens when there is a disruption in the formation of the tooth enamel. The result is a layer of your enamel that is thinner and often full of small indentions called “pits”. Enamel Hypoplasia causes the teeth to be more porous and vulnerable to stains. It has several potential causes, including: your genetics, injury or trauma to newly developing teeth, being born premature, certain infections, untreated chickenpox, and fluorosis.
Perhaps the most concerning reason for white spots on teeth is something called demineralization. This happens when teeth are not properly cleaned and the remaining plaque sits on your teeth and eats away at the enamel, causing it to be thinner and much more vulnerable to decay. Having braces can also make your teeth more vulnerable to demineralization because it can be harder to brush away all plaque between the brackets. Special care needs to be taken when you have braces to ensure your teeth are getting clean when you brush and floss. Demineralization is completely preventable with good oral hygiene habits and regular dental checkups.
A less common reason for white spots in the enamel is celiac disease, an auto-immune condition. People with celiac disease cannot digest gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. Celiac disease often presents with intestinal issues, but it can cause an array of symptoms in many different areas of your body, including your mouth and teeth. Unfortunately, it can be underdiagnosed because some people with the disease don’t have any symptoms. Those who do have symptoms are often misdiagnosed with other conditions that share similar symptoms.
While white spots in tooth enamel caused by celiac disease are not caused by Fluorosis, they do have a similar appearance and can be mistaken for Fluorosis or other causes of discoloration in the enamel. Often, dentists are the first health care providers to notice these subtle irregularities in the tooth’s enamel and will refer patients to a gastroenterologist to be evaluated for celiac disease. It is important to know having white spots in your enamel does not automatically mean you have celiac disease. But according to the National Institutes of Health, these types of defects are fairly common in those who do have the condition, especially children. This is one of many reasons it is important to visit a dentist for regular checkups and screenings for oral health conditions.
Is there a treatment for white spots on teeth?
If you do have white spots in your enamel, you may be wondering if there is anything that can be done to make them go away. Before you try to treat the spots yourself at home, it is important to see your dentist to diagnose the cause of the white spots. At-home whitening kits have risks associated with their use, and they may not help with your particular problem- or even make it worse. Beware of any product that advertises a quick fix for white spots on your teeth. Only dentist can diagnose the reason for the white spots and direct you to the most appropriate treatment for your situation.
Dentists have treatments to remove, cover up, or lessen the appearance of white spots. Those treatments include bonding, veneers, professional bleaching/whitening, and something called micro-abrasion, where your dentist uses a mild abrasive to carefully remove a very thin layer of the enamel, giving them a more uniform appearance.
If you have white spots, pits, spots that appear clear/transparent, or any other discoloration in the enamel of your teeth, it is very important to visit your dentist for an accurate diagnosis. Your dentist will recommend a treatment plan and can carefully monitor your progress. You only get one set of adult teeth, so it is very important to care for them in a way that protects your enamel and ensures a lifetime of healthy smiles.