Braces are an excellent choice for many people because, in addition to a beautifully aligned smile, they provide a wide array of health benefits. What happens, though, when the braces come off and there are white spots on your teeth? Can you fix them? Better yet, can white spots be prevented?
The answer is yes. White spots can be prevented and can be completely cleared for most people. It does take a bit of effort on your part, though. Here’s why.
What are these white spots?
There are a few different situations that cause white spots to form. When they form while you have braces, they are called white spot lesions, and the spot may actually feel different than the rest of your tooth. If not treated, it can be permanent, and lead to larger problems in your tooth.
They are caused by a process called demineralization, where minerals in your tooth enamel (the surface layer of teeth) are stripped away. Enamel has a slightly yellowish hue, so a white spot appears where enamel has been eroded.
Unfortunately, demineralization is the first step in the process of tooth decay. This means that these spots will be more susceptible to acid attacks that cause cavities.
How white spots form while you have braces.
Since white spot lesions form when a tooth loses vital minerals faster than they can be replaced, it is important to know what causes that.
1. Plaque Buildup
When food sits on your teeth, bacteria in your mouth feed on it and produce acids that wear away at your enamel. The food, bacteria, and saliva quickly harden to form plaque, which harbors more food and acid-producing bacteria, creating more plaque, and on and on in a vicious, tooth-destroying cycle.
Plaque begins forming right away and hardens within 48 hours. After several days, a toothbrush will no longer be able to remove plaque. Under the plaque, minerals are being stripped from your teeth by the acids. Making the situation worse, the plaque blocks beneficial minerals from your saliva, foods, and toothpaste from easily reaching your teeth and building them back up.
As discussed in last week’s article, highly acidic drinks can erode your enamel very quickly. Acidic foods can do the same. If this happens while you are wearing braces, when they come off your teeth will have a different color where the brackets were.
Diets high in sugars and simple carbohydrates also lead to faster plaque buildup. When you are wearing braces, there is much greater opportunity for these foods to hide around the brackets and gumline.
People who wear invisible aligners are not immune to these problems. If you eat or drink highly acidic or sugar filled things while wearing aligners, they can trap tiny particles around your teeth creating a feast for harmful bacteria.
3. Chronic Dry Mouth
Chronic dry mouth can cause you to be more susceptible to forming white spots. If you are frequently dehydrated, sleep with your mouth open, or take certain medications, you will not produce enough saliva. As a result, your teeth are not being bathed in the beneficial minerals contained in your saliva. Additionally, they will be more easily harmed by acidic foods and drinks.
4. Enamel Hypoplasia
Having less enamel than normal, is a much less common situation that can lead to white spots. It is often caused by nutrient deficiency, or diseases that lead to nutrient deficiencies.
Take great care of your teeth. Sometimes, if you brush and floss regularly and avoid acidic and sugar-filled foods, the white spots will gradually disappear on their own. (If you do the opposite and neglect your dental hygiene and eat a lot of acidic, sugary foods the spots will get worse and eventually form cavities.)
Repair the weakened enamel. Use toothpaste and/or gel with remineralizing agents like fluoride and nano-hydroxyapatite to rebuild and strengthen enamel. It is also helpful to eat and drink foods that are good for your teeth.
In some cases, tooth whitening products can even out the different colors of your teeth. However, it is important to realize that this does not actually repair the weakened enamel.
We can provide treatment options for severe cases to repair the surface of the affected teeth.
How to prevent white spots on your teeth.
Since white spots can form very quickly (sometimes in just a few weeks), it is important to take steps to prevent them from having a chance to develop.
Prevention is 100% possible if you take great care of your teeth!
Brush at least twice a day with a mineral rich toothpaste and check to make sure your teeth are sparkling clean when you finish. Electric toothbrushes are a great option that will help you do an excellent job.
If you can brush after every meal, that will greatly reduce your chance of developing white spots. If you cannot brush after eating something, be sure to rinse your mouth very well with water. It is important to remove all food particles from around your braces whenever you eat.
Make sure that you brush before bed – and no snacking or drinking anything but water after you brush!
Floss well. Plackers Orthopick® Flossers or Platypus Orthodontic Flossers are designed specifically for people wearing braces.
If you wear invisible aligners, be sure to clean them! It doesn’t matter if your teeth are sparkling clean if your aligners harbor sugar, acids, and bacteria.
Keep all your orthodontic and dental appointments. This allows us to spot problems while they are minor and easily reversed or repaired.
Rinse your mouth with water whenever you drink something sugary or acidic.
Keep the pH of your mouth in the ideal range for healthy teeth. This includes avoiding acidic foods and drinks, drink plain water as much as possible, and avoid snacking (or drinking anything other than water) between meals.
Speaking of food choices, avoiding processed sugar and carbs is enormously beneficial in preventing decalcification and cavities. It also helps to avoid sticky foods that are hard to get off your teeth and braces.
Things like coffee, black tea, dark juices, red wine, tobacco, and alcoholic beverages can stain your teeth. While some only some of these will cause decalcification and white spots, they all will cause the exposed surfaces of your teeth to become discolored. If you want evenly colored teeth when your braces come off, it is best to use moderation, or completely avoid, anything that will easily stain your teeth.
Consider the facts that white spots may form in a matter of weeks, can easily become cavities, and the average person wears braces for more than a year. This highlights the importance of taking excellent care of your teeth while wearing braces. Tooth decay will need to be treated swiftly when you have braces. Unfortunately, cavities may lengthen your time wearing braces.
Luckily, if you commit to taking great care of your teeth, it is highly unlikely that you will find white spots when your braces come off. With a little bit of effort, your time invested into wearing braces will pay off with a beautiful, healthy smile to be proud of!
At Jungle Roots Children’s Dentistry & Orthodontics, we strive to provide the highest comprehensive pediatric and orthodontic dental care in a unique, fun-filled environment staffed by a team of caring, energetic professionals. We believe the establishment of a “dental home” at an early age is the key to a lifetime of positive visits to the dentist.
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