Although people may see white spots on their teeth as undesirable, they rarely need to be a serious cause for concern from a medical point of view.
In this article, we look at the reasons why people might get white spots on their teeth, and provide 11 tips for treating and preventing them.
Dental fluorosis is a common cause of white spots on the teeth.
Image credit: Matthew Ferguson 57, 2015
There are several possible causes of white spots on the teeth.
A common cause is dental fluorosis.
People usually get this when they are young if they consumed too much fluoride as a child. It is usually a harmless condition that only tends to develop before the teeth break through the gums.
Another common cause is enamel hypoplasia.
This condition occurs when a person's teeth enamel does not form properly. Like fluorosis, hypoplasia only occurs during childhood when a person's teeth are still developing. However, it can increase the risk of tooth decay.
Other causes of white spots on the teeth include poor dental hygiene, especially when someone is wearing braces, or eating too many acidic or sugary foods.
There are several possible treatments for white spots on the teeth. The suitability of these treatments may depend on the underlying cause of the white spots and the condition of a person's teeth.
1. Enamel microabrasion
Some people may be able to have microabrasion done to treat their white spots. During this procedure, a dentist removes a small amount of enamel from the teeth to reduce the appearance of the white spots.
This professional treatment is typically followed by teeth bleaching, which can make the teeth appear more uniform in color.
2. Teeth whitening or bleaching
Whitening or bleaching teeth can help to reduce the appearance of white spots and other stains. A variety of teeth whitening products, such as strips and paste, are available over-the-counter (OTC.) People can also buy these products online.
People with white spots can also see a dentist for professional whitening treatments. These treatments tend to use stronger bleaching solutions than those available OTC, which may make them work better.
3. Dental veneer
Dental veneers are thin, protective coverings that attach to the front surface of a person's teeth. They can conceal white spots and other blemishes very effectively.
Dental veneers are only available from a dentist and must be professionally fitted. This can make them costly.
4. Topical fluoride
A dentist may apply topical fluoride to the teeth of people with enamel hypoplasia. This may encourage the development of enamel on the teeth and help prevent tooth decay.
5. Composite resin.
For people with enamel hypoplasia, a dentist may apply composite resin to fill in cavities and to bond the outer enamel of the teeth. This may not be suitable if people have large numbers of white spots on their teeth.
People with enamel hypoplasia may have a higher risk of dental damage.
Image credit: Maurizio Procaccini et al, Head & Face Medicine, 2007
Practicing excellent dental hygiene can help prevent white spots on teeth as well as other stains, tooth decay, gum disease, or other dental problems.
The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends that people brush twice daily with a fluoride toothpaste and floss between their teeth once daily.
For most people, white spots on teeth develop before they reach the age of 10 years old. This may vary in some people.
Therefore, it is essential that people encourage their children to have good dental hygiene and other prevention habits. This can help them ensure their teeth stay healthy and strong.
Following the tips below may help prevent white spots from developing on children's teeth:
6. Using fluoride-free water
For babies who primarily feed on infant formula, making up their formula milk with fluoride-free water may help to prevent excess buildup of fluoride in their teeth.
7. Using the right amount of toothpaste
For children under the age of 3 years old, people should ensure that they are not using more than a smear of toothpaste, or an amount the size of a grain of rice, on their toothbrush.
For children over the age of 3 years old, carers should ensure they are not using more than a pea-sized amount of toothpaste.
Young children often fail to spit toothpaste out, so using a small amount can help reduce their overall fluoride exposure. Supervising a child's brushing can help to ensure that they are using an appropriate amount of toothpaste and not swallowing too much.
8. Testing well water
People should consider having their water tested for fluoride levels on a yearly basis if they have had their homes connected to private wells. This policy is vital for anyone who has young children as natural fluoride levels can vary greatly in different places.
9. Following fluoride supplement recommendations
The ADA recommend dietary fluoride supplements for children aged between 6 months and 16 years old living in areas without fluoridated water who have a high risk of developing tooth decay. These supplements should only be used if a doctor or dentist prescribes them for someone.
10. Reducing sugary and acidic foods and drinks
Soda and sports drinks may damage tooth enamel and cause tooth decay.
Tooth enamel can be damaged and the risk of tooth decay increased by some foods and drinks, especially ones high in sugars or acids.
Foods and drinks to be aware of include the following:
- citrus juices and fruits, such as grapefruit, lemons, and oranges
- hard candies and other sugary sweets
- sodas and other drinks high in sugars, including sports drinks
While occasionally eating these foods and drinks may be harmless, eating too much or too many can lead to damage and blemishes, including white spots.
Drinking water after consuming these foods can help wash them off the teeth and reduce the chances of damage. Drinking through a straw may also help.
11. Seeing a dentist
Anyone concerned about their dental health, or that of their child, should talk to a dentist.
Although white spots on the teeth may be less than desirable, they are usually not a cause for concern. However, people with enamel hypoplasia may be at increased risk of dental damage and decay.
If a person notices that the white spots on their teeth are changing in size or number, or they are starting to have tooth pain, they should see their dentist.
A dentist can evaluate the symptoms and condition of the teeth and will recommend a treatment plan, if necessary.
People rarely need to be overly concerned about while white spots on their teeth and they can treat them for cosmetic purposes if they wish.
A dentist can recommend interventions, such as professional whitening or the application of veneers, to make the teeth appear more uniform in color.
Anyone who is worried about white spots on their teeth should visit their dentist for an examination.