Having white flecks in teeth is not an unusual phenomenon, but when you are the parent of a teenager who hates his or her smile because of these tiny imperfections, it can be difficult! One thing that might help is to understand what they are. The main cause of these white flecks in teeth (also called white spots, lesions, or mottling) are typically either part of the development (or internal make-up) of the tooth or the result of external or environmental causes.
Development of Teeth
The formation of teeth is genetic, but also relies on the availability of proper minerals during the development of the complex tissues from the external enamel to the internal root. A variety of enamel defects can occur, from enamel hypoplasia, which can result in pits, grooves, or missing portions of tooth enamel or even internal tooth structure; to hypomineralzation is a generalized decrease in mineral content in the enamel. Sometimes it can be severe enough to give the tooth a translucent appearance that can lead to soft enamel, or it can be fairly mild and the enamel can actually maintain its opacity.
Another cause of white flecks in teeth is “Fluorosis”, which occurs when an excess of fluoride was consumed during the developmental process. This can occur through fluoridated water, fluoride supplements, swallowing toothpaste during development, or a combination therein.
A common, and mild form of these developmental characteristics can result in white flecks that are sometimes called “tooth freckles“. They are similar to freckles in that they are a characteristic of the make-up of the tooth, or in this case, the mineral content of the enamel of the tooth. However, a more dramatic, and fortunately more uncommon form of these flaws can be quite dark in color. So, if there are small white flecks that occur during the development of teeth, it is usually a very mild cosmetic characteristic.
Sometimes white flecks or white lesions appear in teeth as a result of decalcification of the enamel. This can occur when there has been poor oral hygiene habits and is typically seen along the gumline, or along the edge of where an orthodontic bracket had been placed.
Decalcification of the enamel occurs when plaque buildup is present, and the acids that are inherent in the plaque eat into the outermost surface of the enamel, causing damage or lesions that generally appear white and chalky can even lead to cavities. If signs of decalcification begin to appear, it is critical that oral hygiene habits improve to prevent it from getting any worse.
If there are white flecks in teeth that we want erased, what can be done?
Professional Tooth Whitening
A professional tooth whitening may make the spots less noticeable by removing surrounding stains or lightening the shade of the neighboring enamel.
Another alternative is porcelain dental veneers, which are thin shells of tooth-colored, composite resin, that are bonded directly to the tooth giving the appearance of a smooth, white enamel. Frequently when veneers are done, the upper front four teeth are done together for consistency in shape and shade of white.
If there are significant enamel defects that result in a weak tooth, a crown may be a good option to strengthen the tooth as well as provide a good cosmetic result.
Each person’s dental needs and conditions are very unique and individual, and there can be a wide variety of functional and cosmetic options that your dentist can review with you. In some cases there are some steps that may result in recalcification through oral hygiene instruction and use of specific products. Results and options vary significantly, depending on the individuals circumstances.
Any one of our four dentists here at Cornerstone Dental (Dr. Joe F. (Jody) Griffin, Dr. Joshua Kimrey, Dr. Ben A. Stroud, Dr. Michael R. Williams) would be happy to review your treatment options for you. They are accepting new patients, and would be happy to welcome you to Cornerstone Dental in West Knoxville, Tennessee. Call 865-531-7177 or click here to request an appointment.