What Are Those White Spots On My Teeth? And Did My Braces Cause Them?

So you have braces and you've noticed small white spots appearing on your teeth. This whiteness is called tooth demineralization and it is a serious problem. Understanding demineralization, why it commonly occurs with braces, and how to prevent and treat it can help you sidestep this issue.    

Demineralization Definition

Tooth demineralization is the decay of the tooth enamel caused by the loss of the minerals that help keep it strong. This condition is caused by bacteria feeding on heavily starchy and sugary foods. After eating, the bacteria produces an acid that attacks the minerals in the enamel and causes it to become softer and more prone to invasion by bacteria.

There are many symptoms associated with demineralization, which include:

  • Sensitivity to temperature changes
  • White spots on tooth enamel
  • Growing brown spots
  • Increase in cavities

The latter two symptoms are particularly problematic: an increase in cavities may lead to a higher risk of oral and gum diseases. An increase in cavities can also lead to a variety of other health issues, including an increased risk for heart problems.

The Connection Between Demineralization and Braces

It's not fair to say that braces actually cause demineralization. However, statistics have shown that white spot occurrence in kids with braces is often as high as 50%. Compare that to the 26% who show signs of demineralization without braces. Correlation is not causation, however, and it's not actually the presence of the braces causing demineralization.

Why the increased risk, then, if braces aren't the direct cause? Simply put, brushing and flossing your teeth with braces is a lot harder and, as a result, many kids with braces end up poorly cleaning their teeth. Unfortunately, this allows the plague that decays your tooth enamel to stick around and get more work done.

Eliminating The Risk

Increasing the effectiveness of your brushing may be all you need to do to eliminate your risk for tooth demineralization. Properly brushing your teeth with braces requires brushing three times a day, for three minutes each time and following these brushing guidelines:

  • Hold your toothbrush at a 45-degree angles to the braces
  • Brush above and below the braces, including the wires
  • Press with a medium amount of force
  • Focus on areas of the gums that may have bled or hurt in the past
  • Swish your mouth with a fluoride mix for one minute at the end of the day

However, you should also avoid eating foods that are starchy, sugary, or sticky as they can stick to the teeth and are harder to remove while wearing braces. Foods to avoid include:

  • Gum
  • Chips
  • Cookies
  • Chocolate
  • Popcorn
  • Croutons
  • Fruit
  • Corn on the cob

Following these tips should help you stave off tooth demineralization for the life of your braces. However, if you're worried the tooth demineralization process may have already started, talk to your orthodontist as soon as possible.