Are white spots on teeth bothering you?
Do white spots signal a serious dental issue?
Can the white spots on the teeth be removed?
As a kid, I hated brushing! My mom considered brushing my teeth as her workout routine as it involved sprinting (behind me), wrestling, tug of war and a host of other activities.
I simply could not stand the idea of brushing! It got worse every time we went to Kerala on vacation. But it was one such vacation that I started paying attention to my teeth.
A relative of ours had come to visit us and he was not blessed when it came to his dental health. I was curious as to why his teeth looked the way it did and my mom said that it was because he didn’t brush! She went on to tell me that it will start with white spots that change into brown spots.
Ultimately they will rot and fall off. Long story short, my mom didn’t have to struggle anymore!
Your teeth are one of the first things people notice when they see you and that is why your teeth requires proper care. Most people spend a lot on face and hair products, but don’t devote enough time on their dental hygiene. When you falter, imperfections start creeping up, defacing that lovely smile of yours.
When you think of dental issues, cavities are the first thing that comes to mind. But there are other issues that affect the teeth, white spots being one of them.
What are those white spots on the teeth?
People use teeth whitening treatments and toothpastes to ensure that their teeth are sparkly and white. So white spots on the teeth sound more like a whitening treatment gone wrong!
But in reality, it is not so.
Many of us feel think that the sparkling white teeth you see in the ads on television are how your teeth should be. In fact, we think that white teeth are a benchmark of healthy teeth. But did you know that, in reality healthy teeth are actually off white!
So, if you see white marks on your teeth, that may or may not stand out, you know that all is not well.
Our teeth has many layers. The enamel is the outer layer of your teeth and the major component of enamel is the mineral calcium phosphate and hydroxyl apatite. The white spots are places where the enamel has not formed / been damaged due to some reason. Most us see this problem as something that just ‘looks’ unsightly. It is counted amongst misshapen and misaligned teeth. Due to this reason we do our best by trying to cover it up.
But rather than just viewing it as a cosmetic issue, it is better to get it checked rather than cover your mouth when you smile.
Next, let us take a look at the common causes of white spots forming on the teeth.
What causes white spots on teeth?
There are many reasons why the enamel is destroyed/ not formed and white spots appear on the teeth. The causes of these white spots can be a bit confusing, but I will try my best to simplify it for you.
The enamel that is made up of minerals happens to be very strong, considering the fact that it has to protect the teeth. At times, the mineral distribution is not even. This means that there are areas where the minerals are less. This manifests as spots that are white, yellow or sometimes brown. This is known as hypocalcification.
This occurs during the developmental phase of the teeth.
Hypoplasia is also a developmental issue – one which involves more than just minerals. Hypoplasia can also occur due to trauma to the teeth.
Long story short, hypocalcification, is a type of hypoplasia.
In this case, the teeth would have had a proper enamel, but due to some external factor, it would have demineralized.
While white spots arising due to hypocalcification is a developmental issue, spots that occur due to decalcification point to a more serious issue. This is because in this case it is the sign of the start of tooth decay.
There are different reasons why decalcification occurs, let us take a look at it
- Lacking good oral hygiene
We know that we should brush our teeth twice.
Yet, how many of us really do it?
If we falter in taking care of our teeth, then bacteria start doing their handiwork on our teeth. It starts with the formation of plaque, the sticky coating we see on our teeth a few hours after having brushed or after having a nice dessert.
This coating is made up of bacteria. They secrete acid, which harm the enamel of our teeth and cause decalcification.
- Excessive intake of acidic food items
Nowadays we have ads that tell you that colas are your best bet in summers. There is no party without carbonated drinks, even the kids’ parties have these on the menu. These drinks have a high acidic content.
Excessive intake of these drinks leads to the acid affecting the enamel.
In due time, the enamel gets destroyed leading to white spots. It is not just the carbonated drinks that are harmful to your teeth, too much of any food or drinks that are acidic in nature can cause this. Eg: Citric fruits, sports drinks.
- Xerostomia or Dry mouth
This condition occurs due to the body producing less saliva. Dry mouth is caused by certain illnesses, medicines, certain medical treatments, dehydration etc. It could also be due to drinking or smoking.
Saliva is important for us as it helps in digestion of our food. It also helps in keeping the mouth moist and maintaining a neutral pH level A loss of this balance creates conditions favorable for bacteria to thrive.
Saliva also helps in washing away food particles and acids created by bacteria. So the lack of it leads to enamel erosion and tooth decay.
There are specially formulated toothpastes for small kids. These toothpastes do not have fluoride in it. Ever wondered why? I had this doubt too!
Fluoride is required by the teeth for staying healthy, yet too much of it can be detrimental. Too much of fluoride can lead to fluorosis which leads to the formation of white spots on the teeth. This is commonly seen in kids who have a lot of fluoridated water.
If your kid has white spots, despite following a healthy diet and practicing good oral hygiene, test the water you use for fluoride levels.
If you have white spots on your teeth since your childhood days, then it could be a sign of fluorosis. Speak to a dentist to see what can be done.
There are certain medicines can cause decalcification. So when you visit your dentist, ensure that you update him about the medications you have been taking.
- Orthodontic braces
People who have had to wear braces, will understand what I am talking about. If you have braces to correct your teeth, then you have to be extremely careful about your oral hygiene. Our teeth are arranged in such a way that bacteria have enough places to hide if you are not careful.
Now if you have braces, the number of hiding spots just increase in number. All those hard to reach places become hubs for bacteria and in due time, it turns into white spots. So if you think that your work is done, once you get the braces, you are wrong.
You need to clean your teeth more diligently than people who don’t have them.
Can white spots on teeth be removed?
The answer to this question depends on the cause of the white spots. To find the cause of the white spots, you need to visit your dentist. He/she will be able to make a proper diagnosis and decide the best course of treatment.
The various treatment methods available to tackle white spots are bleaching, micro abrasion, usage of fillers, veneers, resin infilteration etc.
In case, the damage is minimal, your dentist may ask you to modify your habits a bit (including the oral hygiene aspect) and wait for natural remineralization to occur. But if you think your cavities will magically disappear with this, I am sorry to disappoint you.
Do not try to use any over the counter whitening treatments without consulting your doctor as you may end up making matters worse.
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How to prevent white spots that are a result of demineralization?
We can prevent the appearance of certain kinds of white spots. If you are blessed with pearly whites with no blemishes on them, you can keep it that way by following certain small changes.
#1. Limit the sugar
Too much of it isn’t good for you, your teeth included. So exercise moderation while having it.
#2. Limit acidic food and drinks
An acidic environment is an open invite for bacteria to come and party. So you can control that by reducing acidic food and drinks.
Take that cola 0f your diet, it is just a whole lot of bad stuff in a bottle. Now if it is lemonade or lemon tea that you like, then just make sure you have enough water to flush it down.
#3. Treat dry mouth
Dry mouth is not an illness, but a symptom. If you notice that you have dry mouth, then meet a doctor to find the cause and treat it. At times, dry mouth occurs if you drink or smoke excessively.
In that case, limit alcoholic drinks and smoking. Also do not forget to drink enough water.
Isn’t it funny, how a lot of problems can be solved if you drink enough water?
#4. Maintain good oral hygiene
This may sound like the advice given to primary school kids, but this applies to us as well – brush twice, daily! If you do, great, then ensure that you floss too.
Again do not hesitate to ask your dentist to show you how to floss correctly. Incorrect flossing can lead to gum and teeth problems.
If you have braces, then ask your dentist to show you the correct way to brush. Do not be ashamed, as brushing with braces on can be tricky.
Make sure you use the brush recommended by your dentist. If you don’t then, once the braces come off, you won’t be pleased with the results. Who wants white marks on teeth after braces???
#5. Avoid frequent whitening treatments
Unless and until your dentist recommends it, refrain from doing whitening treatments. With self-whitening kits available, a lot of people end up doing it wrong and end up with weakened enamel.
#6. Schedule periodic dental appointments
We hate doctor’s appointments and we do not go to them unless and until something goes wrong. Which is why you should schedule regular appointments.
You should visit a dentist every 6 months, so that he/ she can make sure your teeth are healthy. This visit will also help them nip any problems at the bud, so that you don’t end up with painful problems later on.
Also maintain the overall health of your teeth by eating food items rich in calcium.
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Prominent or not, white spots on teeth need to be checked out by a dentist. This is because all white spots look the same to us but a dentist will be to diagnose the difference. If you see one, then it is time to make the trip to the doctor.
For all you know, it could be something harmless, or it could be something that leads to a very painful root canal later on.
Why take a chance?
So moms, hope this article has helped you. If you have any doubts or comments about white spots on teeth, then do not hesitate to ask.