What are white spots?
White spots are permanent white stains in the outside layer of your tooth, enamel. A better description would be a permanent tooth scar. They are the first step of cavities before the cavity becomes a hole in your tooth.
These white stains cannot be brushed off. You can’t get rid of them by whitening your teeth. In fact, whitening your teeth will make the white spot scars even whiter and more apparent. Read below for how they develop, how to avoid them, and what you can do if they do appear.
How a white spot forms
Your mouth is full of bacteria. When the bad bacteria attach to your tooth (plaque) & start to eat the sugars that you are eating, they produce acid. It is the acid that starts to dissolve your tooth. This changes the way your tooth looks, and it develops a white color. That is a white spot. It takes awhile for the acid to dissolve a hole in your tooth (cavity). The longer the plaque is on your teeth, the longer the acid has to dissolve your tooth.
Why is it easier to get white spots with braces?
It is generally harder to brush & keep your teeth clean with braces. It is also easier for food to get trapped behind the wires and around the braces, which makes it much easier for plaque to form. Remember, it is the plaque & bacteria that cause white spots.
Can you get permanent staining with clear aligners, like Invisalign?
Yes, you can get white spots while wearing aligners. Unlike braces, it is easier to clean your teeth because you can remove aligners before brushing your teeth. However, bad white spots can occur if you eat or drink with your aligners in (see below on how to avoid white spots), or do not properly clean your teeth after eating.
Avoiding white spots
Now that you know a bit more about white spots, here is what you can do to avoid them while in orthodontic treatment:
- Brushing & flossing after you eat – If you do not brush regularly, food will get stuck underneath the braces or aligners, making it a good place for plaque to start forming.
- Stay away from acidic drinks – Carbonated water (like LaCroix), tea, coffee, and wine are all acidic. They will make it easier for white spots to form.
- Stay away from sugary drinks – Juice & other sugary drinks are not only unhealthy, but also give bacteria more to eat.
- Stay away from sugary AND acidic drinks – This combination is the worst, as it both makes your mouth acidic and gives bacteria a lot to digest. Sodas & Gatorade are in this category.
For more in-depth information, check out this handy flyer from the American Association of Orthodontists.
I have permanent white tooth scars, now what?
Even if you get white spots, it is not the end of the world. You will want to contact your dentist or orthodontist about how to get rid of them. Sometimes, fillings may be needed to improve the look.
After your braces are removed, the white areas may fade slightly in a few months as long as you are regularly brushing and flossing. After 2-3 months, you can use high fluoride toothpaste (prescribed by your dentist) & using fluoride mouthrinse to further aid in fading the white spot. Do not use high fluoride toothpaste right after braces removal, as it can seal-in the white spot and will not improve it.