Dental braces are supposed to make your smile look better than ever. But for many people, the day they take their braces off comes with an unfortunate surprise: white spots can sometimes crop up underneath braces even if you brush your teeth twice per day and use floss.
What gives? Turns out, white spots are very difficult to prevent underneath braces. But there’s good news, too – it’s definitely possible to get rid of white spots on teeth from braces with the right cleaning technique and whitening products.
Today, let’s take a look at white spot treatments to get rid of embarrassing white spots where your braces used to be.
Why Do White Spots Appear Underneath Braces in the First Place?
It’s because of a process called decalcification.
In a nutshell, decalcification occurs when bacteria is allowed to sit on your teeth and spread acidic byproducts over their surfaces. When you eat food, you introduce bacterial microorganisms to your teeth. Left unchecked, the bacteria will eat remnants of sugar from your food and produce acidic byproducts. Those byproducts will burn through your enamel, weakening your teeth over time through decalcification.
In fact, that’s exactly what plaque is; the acidic film left behind by bacteria as they reproduce. Preventing decalcification is just one of the many reasons why it’s important to brush and floss your teeth each day (alongside avoiding bad breath, preventing gingivitis, and more).
However, braces make brushing your teeth thoroughly a lot more difficult than normal. Even if you brush your teeth twice per day as recommended by the American Dental Association, you might not get all the bacteria or plaque off your teeth because braces take up a lot of space on their surfaces.
Even the best brushing techniques aren’t perfect, so folks who follow otherwise perfect dental routines sometimes find an unpleasant surprise when they finally get their braces off.
In addition, flossing with braces is much more time-consuming compared to flossing without braces. Lots of people avoid flossing while they have braces just because it’s too inconvenient. But this just gives bacteria even more chances to spread and reproduce on your teeth, leading to the formation of white spots.
What Do White Spots Mean?
Any white spot on your teeth generally means one thing: the enamel there has been weakened or removed and the tooth is at risk for a cavity and infection.
Your teeth’s enamel is a super-hard mineral that protects the interior of your tooth and the layer of softer dentin underneath. Even though enamel is very durable, it’s not invincible. Over time, bacterial can still chew through the enamel, weakening your teeth and leading to cavities.
When you see a white spot, it means that some or all of the enamel in that area has been broken down and eliminated by bacteria. Unfortunately, enamel cannot be replaced. Even with modern dental science, we still don’t know how to replace lost enamel with a synthetic alternative.
But you should note that a white spot doesn’t mean you have a cavity… yet. A white spot does mean that tooth is more likely to get a cavity in the future unless you read that re-mineralize the enamel and brush very thoroughly going forward, though.
Do Most White Spots Go Away?
Yes. Most white spots occur because plaque and bacteria has built up underneath or around braces. But once the braces are removed, your normal toothbrush and toothpaste can suddenly scrape away the plaque and bacteria on those white spots more effectively than before.
After a few weeks or months, you should see white spots fade away or even disappear entirely. But you might also need to target the white spot specifically or seek dental assistance to get rid of them completely.
White vs. Yellow or Brown Spots
White spots underneath your braces are also distinct from yellow or brown spots that might crop up when you get your braces removed.
Yellow or brown spots can also indicate decalcification. But they might also just be tooth stains. Tooth stains can occur when you eat or drink highly dyed foods and beverages, like coffee, chocolate, and so on. They can also occur when you smoke or chew tobacco products.
Tooth stains aren’t normally harmful. They just mean the enamel has been colored because of your eating or tobacco habits. But yellow and brown spots are still unsightly and they might indicate tooth weakness and the opportunity for a cavity.
Because of this, most people try to get yellow or brown spots removed immediately just like white spots. This is doubly true since yellow or brown spots are more noticeable than off-white or even bright white spots on your teeth.
Removing White Spots on Teeth After Braces
Even though it can be alarming to find white spots on your teeth after getting your braces taken off, you can get rid of those white spots with a few smart strategies.
For starters, you should start using a high fluoride toothpaste right away. Fluoride is included in most toothpaste products and you can usually find a little bit of fluoride in your drinking water since fluoride prevents cavities.
How? In short, fluoride can re-mineralize the enamel in your teeth. While it doesn’t replace enamel fully, it can help fill in the gaps and restore the enamel layer to its previous strength if it hasn’t all been depleted.
So if you have a small white spot on your teeth, a high fluoride toothpaste could do just the trick. It’ll strengthen the enamel and the white spot will gradually fade back to a normal, off-white color like the rest of your teeth.
It may be a good idea to use a high fluoride toothpaste anyway given the dental benefits and (usual) lack of downsides. If you can’t use fluoride toothpaste, either because your child is the one with a white tooth spot or because of health concerns, you may need to try some of the other strategies below. Non-fluoride toothpaste can still be effective, but it can’t re-mineralize teeth the same way fluoride toothpaste can.
If the white spots on your teeth aren’t because of decalcification, you might be in luck: a cosmetic dentist could provide you with one or more treatments to remove the white spot.
In these cases, the white spots might actually be tooth stains like many yellow and brown spots. However, cosmetic dentistry is highly dependent on the situation and not all white spots can be removed this way. Furthermore, some discolored areas might require a modest restoration treatment to hide them from view.
In that case, cosmetic dentistry doesn’t actually fix the white spot. It just covers it up so it’s not as unsightly.
The orthodontist who provides your braces treatment might be able to get rid of white spots using veneers. Fortunately, veneers are relatively inexpensive and noninvasive; as simple porcelain covers, they hide visible defects like white or brown spots or tooth indentations.
Speak to your orthodontist about veneers if you notice white spots right after taking your braces off. Note, however, that veneers are only appropriate for white spots that are stains, not signs of decalcification.
In that case, hiding the white spots are a bad idea since they prevent you from applying high fluoride toothpaste to the affected area.
Why Bleaching Doesn’t Work for White Spots
While the above tips are good ideas, you should never rely on tooth bleaching to get rid of white spots.
With tooth bleaching, you or your dentist brightens the surface of the entire tooth. When this occurs, the white spots on your teeth will get brighter as well. Because of this, they will still appear overly white or bright compared to the rest of your teeth and will still stick out like a sore thumb.
In other words, bleaching can make your white tooth spot problem worse, not better.
Can You Prevent White Spots from Appearing Underneath Braces?
Yes! Remember, most white spots occur because plaque and bacteria stick around for too long on your teeth since braces get in the way of proper brushing.
For the best results, you’ll want to invest in an electric toothbrush. Electric toothbrushes are known to be far superior to manual toothbrushes for a few key reasons:
- Many of them have timers, so you can make sure you brush for two minutes each session
- Electric toothbrushes do a better job brushing the services of your teeth compared to your arm
- Electric toothbrushes can scrape away harder plaque and prevent it from turning into tartar
Fortunately, you can find electric toothbrushes everywhere these days. Dr. Brite’s Sonic Toothbrush is a particularly effective choice, especially if you want to supercharge your brushing performance while you have braces.
It’s waterproof, has four different modes of operation, and uses a sonic wave motor for quiet running. The Sonic toothbrush also comes in two colors: white and black!
Anything else you can do to limit the bacteria and plaque in your mouth, such as using mouthwash, flossing every day, and avoiding sugary foods like candy, will go a long way toward preventing plaque from building up around them beneath your braces.
Ultimately, it’s not uncommon to find white spots on your teeth from braces treatments. It’s very difficult to prevent the formation of white spots entirely. But rest assured that most white spots diminish or disappear entirely after a couple of months of brushing with a high fluoride toothpaste.
If you’re white spots stick around for longer, talk to your dentist orthodontist for more advanced cosmetic dentistry treatments like veneers.