Tooth discoloration typically refers to the stains left behind by food, coffee, and red wine. Over the years, these can lead to a yellowish tint that makes your smile less-than-brilliant. But sometimes the opposite issue occurs and bright white spots form on your teeth, leaving a noticeable marbling effect.
While at-home teeth whitening kits work well to remove surface stains caused by food, figuring out how to get rid of white spots on teeth can be a little trickier. That’s because they aren’t caused by stains but structural changes within your tooth enamel, says general and cosmetic dentist Dr. Courtney Hain, DDS. And that can happen for a variety of reasons.
One possible cause is fluorosis, which Hain says might’ve happened during childhood if your teeth were over-exposed to fluoride. If you’ve had the same white spots since you were a kid, this is likely what’s going on. The discoloration can also be due to hypoplasia, a problem that sometimes occurs with the formation of tooth enamel — this can happen for various reasons, including trauma to the tooth. Other causes of white spots, according to dentist Dr. Mariya Malin, DDS, include hereditary factors, vitamin deficiencies, and discoloration after orthodontic braces.
Even though you might not like the way white spots look, they aren’t actually bad or a sign of poor oral hygiene. “As long there is no loss of function and there are no other underlying health conditions, having white spots on teeth is OK,” Malin says. “However, many people feel that having the spots inhibits their appearance and opt-in for one of several solutions to remove or cover them up.” That said, if your white spots are brand new, they may be an early indication of a cavity, aka demineralization. “This occurs when bacteria, usually in the form of plaque, is not properly removed and it leaches minerals out of the enamel structure,” Hain says. In this scenario, you’ll want to treat the issue before an actual cavity forms and affects your overall oral health.
That’s all to say, if you want to get rid of your white spots, you’ll need to start by figuring out what’s causing them. Once you’ve got that sorted, read on for expert tips on how to get rid of white spots on teeth.
1. Visit The Dentist
The American Dental Association recommends regular dental checkups. Scheduling yearly cleanings and X-rays will help ensure you don’t have a cavity or any other dental health issue that could be causing white spots.
“Your dental hygienist can also clean your teeth to remove the plaque or apply fluoride to help strengthen your enamel,” cosmetic dentist Dr. Alexie Aguil, DDS tells Bustle. “Your dentist may also recommend a sealant to help protect your teeth.” While you’re there you can ask about in-office procedures that whiten teeth (more on that below). But as long as your pearly whites are healthy, you may decide to forget about those white speckles.
2. Use A Fluoride Toothpaste
These least invasive way to get rid of white spots? Brushing and flossing more regularly with fluoride toothpaste. If the white spots are caused by an impending cavity, the fluoride toothpaste might help strengthen your teeth by filling in the tooth structure and remineralizing the area, says Hain, which in turn helps disguise the spots. While there are plenty of over-the-counter fluoride toothpastes, you can get an extra powerful variety at your dentist.
3. Brush Gently
When treating white spots, Aguil recommends brushing with a soft-bristled toothbrush. “Brush with just a pea-sized amount of toothpaste and avoid swallowing it,” he says. By not using too much (or swallowing it) you’ll help prevent unnecessary fluoride consumption, which is a common culprit of white spots on teeth.
4. Cut Back On Acidic Foods
According to Aguil, white spots can also be caused by lifestyle habits that strip the outer layer of your enamel. His tip? Try taking a break from acidic foods and drinks. Without all that wear and tear on your enamel from acids in your diet, you may notice that the white spots improve.
5. Try A Teeth Whitening Kit
If you’ve had those white spots literally your entire life and thus know they aren’t a sign of a cavity, an at-home teeth whitening kit might be your best bet. “This will typically resolve the issue with the benefit of also whitening the teeth,” says Dr. Thomas McCarthy, DDS, a Waterbury, Connecticut-based dentist. “Whitening the whole tooth would reduce the appearance of the white spots and solve the issue without any advanced procedure, such as dental veneers.”
Just be aware that it could sometimes make the problem worse: While bleaching, or teeth whitening, can make the color of your enamel more uniform, Malin says there are no guarantees — plus, the bleach might cause the white spots to become whiter, making them stand out even more.
6. Ask About Dental Microabrasion
For spots that are on the surface of the tooth, your dentist might opt for dental microabrasion to gently blast them away using a pressurized stream of abrasive particles, says cosmetic dentist Dr. Gary Michels, DDS. “It may take a few minutes, but it is usually painless,” he tells Bustle. “They’ll remove just enough of the white spot to make it disappear.”
7. See If Resin Infiltration Might Help
If bleaching doesn’t work, your dentist might also use a technique called resin infiltration. It’s a minimally invasive restorative treatment (no shots or drilling) that Malin says produces good results by essentially filling in the white spots.
While white spots can be annoying and you might want them gone, it’s best to keep your hopes in check. “The success of these options depends on how large and deep the tooth defect goes,” Hain says. Whether you try brushing, bleaching, or in-office treatments, your white spots may be here to stay — and that’s OK.
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Dr. Courtney Hain, DDS, general and cosmetic dentist
Dr. Mariya Malin, DDS, dentist
Dr. Alexie Aguil, DDS, dentist
Dr. Thomas McCarthy, DDS, dentist
Dr. Gary Michels, DDS, cosmetic dentist