Why do I have white stains on teeth ?


Our culture emphasizes a smile with nearly perfect teeth.  Some people have spots or white stains on teeth that detract from a perfect smile.

If the white stains on teeth have been present for years they were probably caused by something that disrupted the normal enamel formation when the teeth were developing, typically during ages 6 months to 7 years, before they even came into the mouth.  A fever, serious illness or an exposure to high concentrations of fluoride can cause white stains on teeth or spots to form on developing teeth (no white stains will form on teeth as a result of exposure to high concentrations of fluoride once they have developed and erupted into the mouth). Some regions of the country have higher than optimum levels of fluoride naturally occurring in the water.  The super charged fluoride can be deposited in the enamel and result in white stains or spots.  Young children sometimes swallow toothpaste because they like the sweet taste.  Swallowing fluoride containing toothpaste by young children can cause fluorosis (too much fluoride being deposited in developing enamel) or white spots on teeth.  Avoiding using fluoride toothpaste for children until they are a little older and no longer tempted to swallow the toothpaste is a wise plan. 

There are (probably inherited) conditions of enamel hypoplasia in which enamel does not form completely leaving vulnerable soft spots. Soft spots on the tooth surface stain and decay easily because enamel was not deposited in a healthy way.  Intervention by a dentist shortly after the teeth erupt to allow protective measures to minimize decay of the tooth is advised. Fluoride varnishes, fluoride supplements and dietary guidelines are useful in preventing breakdown of the enamel and decay formation which will help avoid teeth stains.

If the white teeth stains have appeared more recently, they are an indication that the normal healthy enamel surface has been demineralized. Bacterial plaque may form first at the gum line and between the teeth all the time.  Plaque produces an acid that demineralizes the enamel surface.  At first the enamel appears less glossy then gradually becomes somewhat chalky as more demineralization occurs.  With daily thorough tooth brushing and gentle yet meticulous flossing to remove the soft plaque film from the enamel surfaces, the demineralization can be halted which will help you avoid stains on teeth.

Topical application of fluoride, such as Prevident gel toothpaste and Pronamel toothpaste are products that are formulated to help re-mineralize chalky porous enamel.  If allowed to progress, the demineralized enamel will degenerate into an area of decay on the surface of the tooth.  Foods or beverages that are sweetened with sugar or corn syrup cause plaque to grow very quickly and aggressively.  By constantly sipping on a sugar sweetened beverage or keeping a sugar sweetened breath mint, cough drop, or hard candy in your mouth the demineralization can occur quickly as the plaque gets fueled and pours out acid onto the tooth surface, which will allow stains on teeth.

Bleaching teeth will not cause white stains on teeth to be eliminated.  The bleaching process may make the white spots even whiter as well as the surrounding enamel.  Occasionally bleaching may make subtle white spots more obvious during the active bleaching process.  The white spots or white stains on teeth will gradually return to the pre-bleaching color, while the rest of the tooth retains a brighter shade.

White stains on teeth will also appear around orthodontic brackets for the same reason.  Orthodontists stress the importance of keeping the teeth thoroughly cleaned daily during treatment to prevent formation of white stains or spots around the brackets.

Demineralized enamel can be re-mineralized but the spots or white stains on teeth will probably remain. 

How to remove teeth stains:

  • Depending on the depth of the white stain on teeth several dental options are available from your dentist:
  • Microbrasion and enamel polishing might reduce only superficial white teeth stains.
  • Removal of deeper white spots may require preparing the tooth for a bonded composite resin.
  • If the white decalcification has penetrated the enamel and invaded the underlying dentin a filling with a composite resin may be needed.
  • For the most esthetic elimination of extensive white teeth stains a crown or porcelain veneer may be indicated to achieve a more pleasing result.

Consulting with your dentist at the earliest notice of recent white stains on teeth will allow early intervention and a recommendation for the best treatment for you.

At Thomas L. Anderson and Associates, we look forward to working with you and your family to offer quality, affordable dental care. It is important to our dental team that we help you maintain your dental health and wellbeing! Please contact one of our three offices today to schedule an appointment today.