If you have white spots on your teeth, you may be self-conscious about your smile, but there are many treatments available that can help improve the appearance and even strengthen your teeth.
What are white spots on teeth
White spots on teeth can be small circular white spots or bigger white streaks that run horizontally across a tooth. For many people, these spots appear in childhood and don’t disappear as the person gets older no matter how much they brush their teeth. White spots can become more prominent with age. The best way to get rid of white spots on teeth depends on what caused the spots to appear.1
What causes white spots on teeth?
The most common causes of white spots on teeth occur during childhood and continue to affect the teeth into adulthood. Other causes are the result of lifestyle choices in adulthood that start to weaken the teeth. There are treatments to fix appearance of the teeth, but the underlying cause of the white spots may need to be addressed to make sure that the spots don’t worsen or reappear.
Fluorosis is a condition that arises from getting too much fluoride as a child. If children are drinking fluorinated water, brushing with fluoride toothpaste and rinsing with a fluoride rinse, as they grow their permanent teeth can develop white streaks or white spots as they start to grow under the child’s gums. When the permanent teeth break through if they already have white spots or white streaks because of all the extra fluoride, the spots and streaks won’t go away. Generally, Fluorosis doesn’t occur after about age eight because the permanent teeth should all be in by then.2
Enamel hypoplasia has several causes ranging from nutritional deficiencies to medication.3 When enamel hypoplasia occurs, milky white streaks can appear in the tooth that can change color over time to tan or brown. Children who don’t get enough calcium when their teeth are growing can develop enamel hypoplasia on their permanent teeth as they form. When nutritional deficiency is the cause of the white spots on teeth there can also be small dents or furrows in the teeth where the proper calcification of the tooth didn’t occur while the tooth was forming.4
Demineralization can occur in childhood or in adulthood. Demineralization causes tooth enamel to erode either because of poor nutrition or because of a high proportion of acidic foods in the diet. As demineralization gets worse the tooth will start to have a spotty appearance with white or discolored spots. Those spots indicate that the enamel is being worn away. As the enamel disappears, the spots will get more sensitive because the bacteria and plaque in the mouth will start to eat down into the dentin layer of the tooth causing cavities.5
How to treat white spots on teeth
Even though white spots on teeth can’t be totally removed in some cases, there are treatments that will improve the appearance of the teeth and help strengthen them when white spots are caused by damage to the enamel of the tooth. The most effective ways to get rid of white spots on your teeth may need to be done by your dentist.6
- Enamel microabrasion - Enamel microbrasion is a dental procedure where the dentist uses specialized tools to remove white spots by removing some of the tooth enamel. Teeth are then bleached or whitened to give them a more uniform look and color. The dentist may recommend additional tooth strengthening procedures or sealants after this procedure to protect the remaining enamel of the teeth.7
- Teeth whitening - Bleach-based teeth whitening may not get rid of white spots on teeth but it can diminish their appearance by making all the teeth similar in color so white spots aren’t noticeable.
- Dental veneers - Dental veneers can improve the look of your teeth and hide white spots or other discolorations. Veneers are thin layers of composite material that are fitted to your teeth. If you only have white spots on a few teeth or if you have prominent white spots on your front teeth, dental veneers can help improve the look of your smile.
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Brought to you by The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America (Guardian), New York, NY. Material discussed is meant for general illustration and/or informational purposes only and it is not to be construed as tax, legal, investment or medical advice. It is not dental care advice and should not be substituted for regular consultation with your dentist. If you have any concerns about your dental health, please contact your dentist's office.