The teeth whitening industry is worth billions of dollars a year, and it’s only getting larger. You’ve probably seen hundreds of adverts promising to remove the stains caused by coffee, smoking, spicy foods, and general wear and tear.
And while yellowing teeth can certainly be unattractive to look at, there’s another type of discoloration that’s even more immediately visible. If your teeth are covered in small white spots or speckles, then the visual effect is even more obvious than a darker but more even discoloration.
There are four main causes of this problem.
1) Early Stages of Decay
White speckles can be the first sign of tooth decay. Small groups of bacteria can begin eating away at the enamel, removing the naturally stained surface to reveal the lighter shades underneath. If you suspect this is the issue, visit your dentist for a checkup to prevent the problem from getting any worse.
If these local areas of bacteria aren’t removed, they can quickly weaken the dental enamel. As well as increasing the risk of decay, this lowers the calcium levels leaving permanent white spots on the surface of your teeth. This effect is particularly common in people wearing fixed dental braces, which often make thorough cleaning more difficult.
If you’ve had the white spots from a young age, they could be a sign of a condition called fluorosis. This happens when teeth receive too much fluoride during their development.
This isn’t usually because of brushing with fluoride toothpaste but comes about through excessive levels of fluoride in drinking water, or in mineral supplements taken for other health reasons. The results are permanent but can be disguised with cosmetic dentistry treatment.
4) Enamel Hypoplasia
If your teeth are suffering from a nutritional deficiency, enamel hypoplasia can often be the result. This often shows itself as white spots on your teeth where the mineral levels are lower they should be. Sometimes, the spots can be yellow or brown.
As with demineralization damage, these spots are at a much higher risk of decay if they’re not dealt with.
What to Do About White Spots
There are three main ways of dealing with white spots on your teeth, whatever their underlying cause.
This is a dental procedure which uses abrasive substances mixed with an acid to remove the top layer of dental enamel. In many cases, this will also remove the whitened or discolored spots.
Another approach is to whiten your entire smile using bleach or another lightening agent. Depending on the level of staining, this can even out your teeth color to a more uniform shade, making the spots less visible.
However, in more severe cases, dental veneers may be a more effective solution. Veneers are thin slices of porcelain or composite material shaped to fit over your teeth so that they cover and hide both staining and damage.
Once fitted, they’re virtually undetectable, prevent further staining, and last for a decade or more. However, this is quite an involved and costly procedure which isn’t suitable for those with poor underlying dental health.
No matter what the suspected cause, if you notice white spots on your teeth, make an appointment with your dentist to look into the problem. By taking quick action, you’ll have the best chance of finding a solution with as little fuss as possible.