You’re probably already familiar with everyday tooth stains that can occur as a result of eating certain foods, drinking coffee, sipping tea, enjoying caramel-colored sodas, or smoking. These stains are usually a yellow or brown color. Maybe this time, however, you’ve noticed a strange stain on a front tooth, a white spot that is lighter and brighter than the rest of your teeth.
If you or your child has a white spot on a tooth, you shouldn’t worry because white spots on teeth are actually quite common, and they are treatable, too.
Let’s take a closer look at white spots on teeth to learn what causes them, who can get them, and how they can be treated.
What Causes White Spots on Teeth?
There are several reasons why you might develop white spots on your teeth, including:
Decalcification or Demineralization
Decalcification or demineralization occurs when tooth enamel begins to break down as a result of excessive, long-term bacteria exposure in the mouth.
Bacteria produce acids as a waste product, and these acids break down the minerals that comprise tooth enamel. As a result, the normal-colored tooth enamel becomes demineralized, less dense, and less thick, causing white or brown spots to appear on the teeth.
Demineralization can occur as a result of poor oral hygiene, an overly sugary or acidic diet, and even from wearing braces or other dental appliances.
Demineralization is actually one of the earliest forms of tooth decay, so it should be closely monitored and steps should be taken to improve the patient’s oral hygiene and remineralize their teeth.
Turner’s Tooth (Enamel Hypoplasia)
Turner’s tooth, also called enamel hypoplasia, is another condition that can cause white, yellow, or brown spots on the teeth as a result of a reduced tooth enamel thickness in certain areas.
Enamel hypoplasia can develop in either childhood or adulthood, and there are several different underlying reasons why a person might have this kind of tooth discoloration, including:
- Lack of proper nutrients in the diet
- High fevers
- Certain medications
- Trauma to the tooth
- Smoking during pregnancy
- Premature birth
Due to the reduced enamel thickness, patients with Turner’s tooth might also experience tooth sensitivity and can be more prone to tooth decay and developing dental caries. For this reason, we usually recommend close observation of patients with enamel hypoplasia to prevent serious dental health problems from developing.
Fluorosis is a condition that can cause white, yellow, or brown spots on teeth as a result of consuming too much fluoride. Although fluoride is good because it helps to strengthen the teeth, taking in too much of the mineral can lead to the development of spots on the teeth.
Fluorosis occurs during childhood while the teeth are still developing, often before they have even erupted above the gum line. It most often develops as a result of ingesting fluoride from more than one source, such as in fluoridated city water, a vitamin supplement, and swallowing a little too much toothpaste.
Treatments for White Spots on Teeth
There are several different treatments and ways to address tooth discoloration. Treatments for white spots on teeth vary depending on the underlying cause of tooth discoloration. They include both cosmetic and restorative treatments such as:
- Teeth Whitening – Depending on the type of discoloration present, professional teeth whitening treatments can help brighten and even the color and appearance of your tooth enamel.
- Enamel Microabrasion – This treatment uses an abrasive to remove the discolored spot, along with a small portion of the patient’s tooth enamel. Enamel microabrasion is usually followed with a professional teeth whitening treatment to create a more uniform appearance.
- Dental Veneers – Dental veneers are thin, porcelain shells that are permanently bonded to the surface of teeth to cover stains and other minor imperfections.
- Topical Fluoride – Professional fluoride treatments can improve the appearance of teeth in cases of demineralization.
- Composite Resin Bonding or Fillings – If cavities are present, then the tooth might need to be drilled and filled with a tooth-colored filling. If no cavity is present, bonding using the same tooth-colored material can be used to cover a tooth stain.
If a patient’s white spots also pose a threat to the health of their teeth, then the underlying cause also needs to be addressed in addition to providing treatments to improve the appearance of the patient’s teeth.
To address both health and aesthetic concerns, patients usually require a combination of the above-listed dental treatments.
Schedule an Appointment at Goochland Dentistry to Get to the Bottom of Your Tooth Discoloration
If you’ve noticed white spots, stains, or other discoloration developing on your teeth or your child’s teeth, then we strongly encourage you to schedule an appointment at Goochland Dentistry.
Dr. Murchie and his team can examine your teeth, evaluate your oral health, talk with you about your lifestyle, medications, and anything else that might have changed recently to determine the underlying cause of your white spots or stains.
We can then recommend the most appropriate course of treatment designed specifically to address your individual oral health concerns.
To learn more about white spots on teeth, tooth discoloration, and our comprehensive restorative and cosmetic dentistry treatments, we welcome you to contact our office today.