What Is the Cause of White Spots on Teeth?

What Is the Cause of White Spots on Teeth?


White spots on your teeth may be more than just a bothersome distraction from the beauty of your smile. They’re most often a signal that decay is headed your way.

Once you’ve got white spots, no amount of brushing or flossing can take them away. And forget trying to whiten your teeth to match the spots since they’re usually caused by thinning enamel — that tough outer coating that helps protect your teeth from harm — which can’t be restored with whitening.

Fortunately, there are treatments available that can help return your pearly whites to their former good looks and prevent cavities from forming.

Learn a little more about these white spots and your tooth enamel, and what the oral health professionals at Meadowbrook Dental Care recommend for this fairly common problem.

The basics of tooth enamel

Healthy tooth enamel coats the outer surface of your teeth with a strong, smooth barrier that helps protect the sensitive inner tooth from acidic foods or beverages, cavity-causing bacteria, and very hot or cold foods and liquids.

It’s the hardest substance in your body, consisting mostly of minerals (primarily hydroxyapatite), and it doesn’t regenerate. Tooth enamel takes a lot of abuse from the substances you eat and drink every day and, despite its toughness, naturally wears away over time. Some people are also born with fragile tooth enamel that’s more prone to erosion or chipping and cracking.  

What those white spots mean  

Areas of white discoloration on your teeth are a sign that your tooth enamel is beginning to frost. This is the earliest form of tooth decay and indicates the enamel in the discolored area is weakening at a microscopic level, losing its smooth bacteria-repelling surface, and becoming less protective overall.

Over time, these white areas often become brown or yellow as they pick up stains from the foods and beverages you consume. The weak spot also creates an opening in your enamel that may eventually allow bacteria to enter and cause further damage to the affected tooth.  

What causes tooth enamel to weaken?

The causes of these weakened areas can vary, but they’re most often due to enamel erosion resulting from plaque buildup and acids in your foods and drinks. Trauma to a tooth can also chip or weaken enamel.

You may also note white spots indicative of weakening enamel after you or your child complete orthodontic treatment with traditional wire braces. These appliances make it difficult to keep teeth free of plaque buildup in certain areas. As plaque builds up, it dissolves the minerals in your tooth enamel.

What is the treatment for white spots on my teeth?

At Meadowbrook Dental Care, we recommend treating white spots with Icon®. This is a painless, relatively quick, and effective way to fill in these weakened areas of early decay. We simply apply a specially formulated, resin-type substance to the surface of the affected teeth.

This liquid infiltrates the damaged area and hardens, forming an enamel-like barrier that helps prevent further destruction. It also eliminates the white discoloration. We can use Icon on surface areas or, with a special spacer, apply it to early decay we find between teeth.

Other treatments include a fluoride pressure therapy that frequently does not erase the white spot, or perhaps waiting for the cavity to progress until it’s large enough for filling. With Icon, there is no drilling or anesthesia required, and the treatment is completed in just one office visit.

We greatly appreciate the effectiveness of Icon in stopping cavity progression and are especially pleased that we can use this therapy in the earliest stages of white spot growth, long before you notice any decay.    

If you’ve noticed white spots on your teeth or are overdue for your routine exam and cleaning, schedule a visit with us at Meadowbrook for expert dental care that’s patient-focused and health-centered.

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