What are white spots on the teeth?
White spots on the teeth are opaque patches of tooth enamel that may appear glass-like, creamy, or in certain cases may appear as dark brown stains. There are several main causes of white spots on the teeth including enamel hypoplasia, fluorosis as well as spots occurring after the removal of braces (after consumption of sugary or acidic food). White spots are typically an aesthetic issue rather than a health issue. However, treatments to reduce the appearance of white spots on the teeth are available.
How can I get rid of white spots on my teeth?
White spots on the teeth may be the result of many root causes. Depending on the individual circumstances of the patient (i.e. depending on the established cause of white spots on the teeth) the dentist will design and recommend a suitable treatment plan.
Below is a list of potential treatments for white spots on the teeth…
- Microabrasion (enamel removal) – Enamel microabrasion may be suitable where the aesthetic appearance of the white spot(s) on a patient’s tooth can be improved by removing a small amount of the tooth enamel. This treatment is typically followed by a course of teeth whitening treatment.
- Teeth whitening treatment (teeth bleaching) – Teeth whitening (or teeth bleaching) is a popular method of significantly reducing (or removing) the appearance of stains or white spots on the teeth. The dentist is best placed to recommend a teeth whitening treatment that meets the client’s expectations.
- Veneers attached to the surface of the teeth – A dental veneer may be recommended by the dentist as a means of ‘covering’ the entire surface of the tooth, eliminating the appearance of white spots on the teeth. The thin but protective veneer gives the appearance of a natural healthy tooth.
- Topical fluoride therapy (varnish/gel/mouth rinse/toothpaste) – Fluoride may be applied to the white spots on the teeth by the dentist in one of four main mediums – a varnish, gel, mouth rinse, or toothpaste. This can help to strengthen the tooth and encourage enamel development in enamel deficient areas.
- Filling (a composite resin used to restore cavities) – Where the dentist determines that white spots on the teeth are caused by cavities on the surface of the tooth, a composite resin filling may be used to restore the tooth (please see below). This treatment is unlikely to be suitable for patients with many white spots.
What is an Icon Resin Infiltration?
This is a treatment that penetrates selected areas of demineralised enamel to assist in fading the appearance of white spots. In comparison to other popular teeth whitening procedures, Icon Resin Infiltration is considered to be a longer lasting treatment with an expected minimal stability of two years (with some reports stating a six-year effective range).
Below is a summary of how the treatment works…..
- A restorative treatment for white spots on the teeth
- The procedure is completed in one visit, with no numbing injections or drilling required (the process requires around 45 – 60 minutes)
- The teeth are etched to remove any remineralised enamel that may be blocking calcium (and other ions essential for maintaining healthy teeth) from entering the tooth.
- A drying agent is added before the application of the resin takes place – the resin is allowed to soak for three minutes
- Excess material is removed, and the application of the resin is repeated for one minute
- The process is completed with a polish
Icon resin Infiltration is a minimally invasive treatment for white spots on the teeth. The procedure can usually be offered to patients much faster than other treatments, such as veneers. The optical properties of the treatment offer a similar finish to the patient’s natural enamel shade.
What causes white spots on the teeth?
There are a number of causes of white spots on teeth including…
- White spots left on teeth when braces are removed – Patients who consume large amounts of acidic or sugary foods/beverages whilst fitted with non-removable braces (e.g. traditional metallic braces) may notice white spots on the teeth when the dental cement used to hold the braces in place is removed. This is because acidic or sugary food/beverages can cause demineralisation of the enamel layer (early decay). This process causes the tooth surface to become discoloured and opaque.
- Fluorosis – uneven construction of the enamel during development – Fluorosis is linked to an increased intake of fluoride – this can be from natural sources or ingestion. The increased intake of fluoride during the tooth’s developmental stage can lead to an amount of fluoride being deposited in the tooth, causing white spots on teeth that are yet to erupt through the gum.
- Enamel hypoplasia – Enamel hypoplasia can affect both primary teeth (baby teeth) and secondary teeth (adult teeth). The term covers any abnormality in the normal development of the tooth – where pits or grooves form naturally, or where part of the crown does not develop fully, the tooth may appear naturally mottled/spotted with a higher susceptibility to staining.
- Demineralisation – Demineralisation is the technical term for any loss of tooth enamel due to tooth decay. The wearing down of the surface of the tooth exposes different layers of the tooth, which may create a frosted or white spotted effect. With continued loss of the enamel structure, the tooth will succumb to cavitation, further decay, and eventual tooth loss.
Will white spots on the teeth fade away?
Some dental patients report noticing faint white spotting on the teeth in the morning (directly after waking up) that fades away throughout the day. This can be caused by dehydration of the surface of the tooth – the white spots are expected to fade gradually once the teeth have been brushed with toothpaste and water, or once the patient’s mouth has become wet with saliva.
However, in most cases of significant white spots on the teeth, the white spots are linked to an underlying issue with the complexion of the tooth enamel. These white spots are not expected to fade away – the patient must seek expert dental care to remove/cover/bleach the white spots.
Are white spots on the teeth preventable?
White spots on the teeth can affect anybody. However, white spots usually develop before the age of around 10 years old. Encouraging children to practice excellent oral hygiene can help to reduce the probability of developing a host of dental issues such as gum disease, tooth decay, and white spots on the teeth.
Those wishing to reduce the chances of developing white spots on the teeth may wish to consider the following tips:
White spots prevention advice for children
- Children under 2 years of age should use either no toothpaste or a grain of rice sized amount of fluoride free toothpaste*
- Children aged 2-7 years should use a reduced fluoride toothpaste.
*Children often fail to wash the mouth out completely after brushing, meaning any fluoride toothpaste that is left in the mouth after brushing may contribute to white spots on the teeth.
White spots prevention advice for adults
- Brush the teeth thoroughly twice per day with a fluoride toothpaste for 2-3 minutes
- Floss each day to prevent build of organic material on the teeth
- Make regular dental appointments – people with under-developed teeth (hypoplasia) may benefit from a treatment plan in order to prevent damage to the teeth or the onset of tooth decay.
Along with upkeep of dental hygiene, avoidance of sugary and acidic foods/beverages can help to reduce the chance of developing white spots on the teeth.
What food and drinks should I avoid in order to help prevent white spots appearing?
- Citrus fruits (and citrus based drinks). This includes lemons, limes, oranges, grapefruit, kumquats, satsumas, tangerines, and clementines.
- Hard boiled sweets, soft sugary sweets, cake, chocolate, milkshakes.
- Beverages with a high sugar content (be aware that sports drinks may be high in sugar).