The day your braces finally come off should be one of celebration. You should feel good about what you see when you smile in the mirror. But for some patients, that’s not entirely the case: While their teeth may be straight and bite corrected, they notice a new problem has developed—white spots on their teeth.
After committing to months or years of orthodontic treatment, the last thing you want is another reason to hide your smile. Thankfully, white spots on the teeth can be prevented. Read on to learn what those white spots are, what causes them, and what you can do to make sure they don’t develop on your teeth during orthodontic treatment.
What are the white marks that sometimes form on teeth?
Those white marks, or white spot lesions (WSLs), are areas of the tooth where the enamel has lost a significant amount of minerals. White spot lesions are early warning signs of tooth decay. If the demineralization (or decalcification) process is left to continue, a cavity, or hole, will eventually form in the tooth.
What causes white spot lesions?
White spots lesions can appear for different reasons. Fluorosis, genetics, and environmental factors such as trauma or exposure to radiation can all cause white spots to form on the teeth.
But the WSLs that are most commonly associated with braces, and those that are the most preventable, are the white spots caused by acid.
Acid is usually introduced to the teeth in a couple of ways: through acidic drinks (especially sodas), and the bacteria found in plaque. And plaque, as you may know, is the sticky residue that forms on teeth when leftover food particles and saliva combine, which is why it is so important to maintain a good oral hygiene regimen, to minimize the plaque – ->that contains the bacteria – -> that produces the acid – ->that causes the white spot lesions on the teeth (not to mention cavities and gum disease).
To be clear, braces DO NOT cause white spots on teeth. In fact, many adolescents who have never undergone orthodontic treatment develop the WSLs that are caused by acid. But because orthodontic appliances can make it more difficult to clean the teeth thoroughly, wearing braces does increase the risk of developing white spot lesions.
How to Prevent White Spot Lesions
Although the chances of developing WSLs might be higher if you wear braces, that doesn’t mean you have to get them. A little extra care with your oral hygiene routine, as well as following the other suggestions below, will go a long way in preventing white spots from ever developing on your teeth.
+ Limit sugar intake—The bacteria in plaque that produce the acids that cause white spots, cavities and gum disease thrive on sugar.
+ Minimize your consumption of tooth-damaging acids by switching from sodas, sports drinks and juices to water. If you do break down and drink a sugary or acidic beverage, rinsing afterward with plain water can help.
+ Brush or rinse after all snacks and meals.
+ Use a sonic toothbrush to remove plaque more efficiently than manual brushing (our patients receive a free Sonicare toothbrush when they get their braces). Click here to watch a how-to video on brushing with a sonic toothbrush.
+ Floss at least once a day with a pre-threaded flosser like Plackers Orthopick. For even better plaque removal, use a water flosser or oral irrigator such as Waterpik. For more information on flossing with braces, check out this article we shared a while back that includes instructional videos.
+ Use plaque-disclosing tablets every evening after brushing to reveal the plaque you may have missed.
+ Unless otherwise instructed, continue to get your teeth cleaned every 6 months at your dentist’s office.
Keeping white spots from developing on the teeth while you’re wearing braces is entirely possible with a good oral hygiene routine and healthy eating/drinking habits. We hope that you’ve found the tips we shared today helpful, and we’re certain if you follow them the only thing that will be revealed the day of your debanding is a healthy, beautiful smile!