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White Spots on Teeth: What Do They Mean?

Having white teeth is one thing, but having white spots on the teeth is another. Learn why those spots happen and what you can do about them.

Last updated on

December 21, 2023

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White Spots on Teeth: What Do They Mean?

It’s a goal for many people to try to get the whitest teeth possible, enhancing their smile and improving their self-confidence. But there’s a major difference between having white teeth and having white spots on your teeth.

Having spots on the teeth that look a tad lighter than usual is a fairly common experience that can affect the way you view your smile and oral health. Let’s look at why that might be happening and what can help fix it.

What Are the White Spots on My Teeth?

You might notice some white blotches on the teeth that are a different color of white than the rest of the teeth surrounding them. These spots do not have a specific name, but they are pretty common and can affect the way your teeth look.

What Causes White Spots on Teeth?

A few different factors can disrupt your pearly whites. This includes:

Demineralization

The outer layer of teeth is the enamel, and this is the layer that gives your teeth its white color. It is a protective layer that prevents bacteria from getting inside the inner structures of your teeth and leading to decay.

Long-term bacteria build-up in the mouth can lead to consequent mineral loss of the tooth itself, leading to this discoloration. While these white spots are not always a sign of tooth decay, they can sometimes be a warning sign that cavities or dental caries are soon to come. This is called demineralization

In demineralization, the tartar and plaque build-up make the surface of the tooth rougher. It might also make brushing painful and less effective overall. Poor dental hygiene is a root cause of demineralization, which includes not brushing your teeth, flossing, or visiting your dentist for regular visits.

Enamel Hypoplasia

Enamel hypoplasia is a defect in the enamel in which this outer protective layer is thin or completely absent. It is a developmental defect, meaning that it is already present from the time the tooth erupts from the gums: It’s not caused by poor hygiene or other factors.

This defect occurs only on the tooth’s surface, which is why it might only make a small portion of the tooth appear brighter than normal. Sometimes it can also cause small pits or grooves.

Children can develop this for a number of reasons, including genetics, diabetes, low birth weight, premature birth, viral infections, or nutritional deficiencies. While enamel hypoplasia often lasts into adulthood, things like fillings and fluoride treatments can help.

Poor Diet

Certain foods can wear away your enamel and make small discolored spots appear on your teeth. This is especially true of highly acidic foods like coffee, wine, citrus fruits, and hot sauces. These can damage the outer layer of enamel.

High-sugar diets can also cause the formation of plaque on your tooth’s surface. Plaque is a substance that can harden and erode your enamel when exposed to high amounts of sugar. Sodas, candy, and other foods that are high in sugar can foster plaque formation.

Add foods to the shopping list that are good for oral health, including dairy products. In fact, dairy is one of the best foods for healthy teeth because it is low in sugar and high in calcium, which is a mineral necessary for strong bone density. Other foods like raw, crunchy vegetables, leafy greens, berries, and whole grains can all promote good oral health.

These healthy foods can also reduce the likelihood of acid reflux, which is a condition where stomach acid regurgitates from the stomach into the esophagus. This condition can erode your teeth. 

Note that while enamel is capable of regenerating and repairing itself, increased stomach acid presence can ultimately destroy the enamel's healthy mineral content and, subsequently, its ability to repair itself. Stomach acid has a pH of 1 or 2, which is a very strong concentration.

Sleeping With Your Mouth Open

Sometimes, the white spots on your teeth might be temporary. If you notice these tiny spots in the morning right after waking up, it might be from sleeping with your mouth open.

These occur when the surface of your enamel gets dehydrated/dry overnight. However, once saliva hits your teeth, they’ll rehydrate, and these spots should disappear. Being sick or having a cold can make it more likely that you’ll sleep with your mouth open because of nasal congestion.

Fluorosis

Dental fluorosis is a condition that changes the appearance of the outside of your teeth, and it can happen from consuming too much fluoride during years when teeth formation occurs (age eight and younger).

Most cases of dental fluorosis present as white spots on the teeth, but severe cases can cause severe enamel damage. This is why it's vital for children to use the proper types of toothpaste or mouthwash at young ages to reduce the chances of this condition occurring. Keep in mind that children should not have fluoride before a certain age — ask their pediatric dentist for more information. 

How To Treat White Spots on the Teeth

Happily, there are a few treatment options for fixing the spots on your teeth if they are causing discomfort. 

Tooth Bleaching

Bleaching (teeth whitening) is performed under the supervision of a dentist. This process is used to help balance out the color of your tooth’s enamel to lighten the entire tooth, which can conceal those white spots.

Chair-side bleaching is the safest method done in your dentist’s office. With this, you’ll undergo about three to four sessions where oxidizing agents are applied to your teeth, like hydrogen peroxide. These temporarily enhance the color of your teeth but will need to be done again later on.

They can also prescribe bleaching to be done at home, which uses the same bleaching agents under a different set of self-administered directions. While you can also use over-the-counter bleaching products, it is best to use what your dentist prescribes.

Tooth bleaching should not be done in cases of severe enamel damage because it might damage the enamel even more. Speak to your dentist before undergoing a whitening procedure to make sure it is safe.

Microabrasion

Microabrasion is a permanent procedure that can help remove discoloration from the tooth's surface by rubbing a paste over the teeth. This gently scrapes away the top layer of enamel to reveal a fresh, whiter layer underneath.

This procedure can be better for your teeth than other whitening methods because it doesn’t use any harsh chemicals. It just removes micro-layers of enamel to ensure as much as possible still remains. The effects are long-lasting and effective.

Veneers

If the white spots on your teeth are severe, you can consider wearing veneers. A veneer is a custom-made shell that is put over the front of the surface of your teeth to improve its appearance.

To place a veneer, a dentist must remove about half a millimeter of enamel. That's about the thickness of a veneer to make room for it to be added to your tooth. After roughening the surface of the tooth, your dentist will place a veneer and bond it to the top.

Veneers are a permanent procedure that can very much improve the appearance of your teeth. And since veneers can’t discolor like your enamel, these are a good solution if you’re willing to undergo the procedure.

How Much Does It Cost To Fix White Spots on Teeth?

The price of treatment to fix white spots on your teeth can vary based on a number of factors. For one, the severity and the number of teeth that need treatment can naturally change the price. Additionally, the type of treatment you receive can affect the cost too. 

No matter what, these procedures can be highly costly, and insurance likely won’t cover them. This is because white spots on your teeth often do not actually affect your underlying oral health, making them cosmetic procedures. Cosmetic procedures are often not covered under dental insurance plans.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t have access to the dental care you want or need. Flossy is a pay-as-you-go dental provider where you only pay for the services you receive. That means no annual fees, monthly premiums, or membership dues. Plus, we can save you up to 50% of the average cost of teeth whitening and spot reduction procedures.

The dentists in our network (find a Flossy dentist near you) are vetted against a set of rigorous criteria to ensure you’re getting the highest quality care possible. Excellent patient reviews, degrees from accredited dental programs, and the use of modern technology are just a few standards that our network of dentists adhere to.

Can You Prevent White Spots on the Teeth?

One of the best ways to prevent white spots from forming on the teeth in the first place is by practicing proper dental hygiene habits. This includes brushing and flossing on a regular basis as well as visiting your dentist for routine dental cleanings twice a year.

Monitor what you eat by reducing sugar and acidic food intake while enhancing the consumption of crunchy vegetables and dairy products. Quit smoking (if applicable) to prevent tooth decay and other problems with your oral health.

If you have children, prevent fluorosis by preventing excess fluoride exposure. Be sure to use specific children’s toothpaste and use a small amount of toothpaste, monitoring their usage from a young age. Teach children not to swallow toothpaste.

In Conclusion

White spots on the teeth are a fairly common occurrence that can stem from a number of underlying factors. This includes demineralization of the enamel from tooth decay, a poor diet, enamel hypoplasia, fluorosis, or even just sleeping with your mouth open.

Treatment for these spots can be done through tooth bleaching to neutralize your teeth’s color, enamel microabrasion, or dental veneers.

Either way, getting treatment can be expensive because most insurance companies do not cover the cost of cosmetic teeth coloring procedures. This means that you’ll need to pay out of pocket for your care.

Flossy can save you up to 50% on the cost of common dental treatments, from teeth whitening to routine visits. And there’s no membership fee or waiting period, so you visit the Flossy App and get started right away.

Sources:

Demineralization–remineralization dynamics in teeth and bone | PMC

Enamel hypoplasia and its role in identification of individuals: A review of literature | PMC

The Best Foods For A Healthy Smile and Whole Body | College of Dentistry | University of Illinois Chicago

Fluorosis | Community Water Fluoridation FAQs | Community Water Fluoridation | Division of Oral Health | CDC

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