White spot lesions are no joke. They are spots on your enamel that lack the minerals that build strong enamel and, thus, are weaker than the surrounding tooth surface. White spots can lead to full cavities, in addition to being cosmetically undesirable. However, they are not inevitable. There are some mistaken beliefs that may lead to white spots that were completely avoidable. Read on to see if you have accidentally adopted any of these dangerous (for your enamel health) beliefs.
Belief 1: Brushing once a day is fine, it’ll do the job.
Brushing your teeth first thing in the morning is great. It’s a healthy way to kick off your day. Brushing before you eat anything is even better; it lets you get rid of any bacteria that started growing on your teeth overnight instead of spreading and swallowing those bacteria.
However, thinking that a single daily appointment with your toothbrush is all the care your mouth needs is a recipe for trouble. You expose your mouth to enamel compromising foods and drinks throughout the day. You don’t want to wait twenty-four hours before dislodging the food particles and the bacteria that flourish on those food particles from your mouth. Brush every morning and before bedtime (at least) to keep those enamel weakening forces in check.
Belief 2: Immediately after eating, you should brush vigorously.
It’s understandable to want to completely clean your teeth after each meal, but white spots can grow from overbrushing, too. As you eat, the environment in your mouth becomes more acidic. The acid dissolves some of the minerals that make up tooth enamel. Normally, as the pH levels in your mouth rise after eating, partially with the help of saliva, the minerals, assisted by fluoride, redeposit on your teeth and rejoin the enamel.
If you vigorously brush your teeth while your mouth is still acidic after eating, you risk brushing away the dissolved minerals, stripping your enamel away. The resulting weakened white spot lesions are precisely what you were seeking to avoid by brushing. Instead, chew xylitol gum or swish plain water in your mouth directly after eating, and save the gentle tooth brushing for at least an hour after food or drinks.
Belief 3: Healthy foods won’t hurt my teeth, only junk food.
It’s well understood that sugar is a major contributor to tooth decay. It’s important to eat a healthy diet; the vitamins and minerals from a healthy diet contribute to overall better health and better oral health. But, that does not mean that eating a healthy diet is not without downsides for enamel health if no additional precautions are taken.
The problem is healthy foods still cause an acidic environment in the mouth after eating. In fact, fruits, which can be very healthy, also can be very acidic. Long term acid environments in the mouth can equal enamel compromise and white spot lesions. Raising oral pH after eating, even after eating healthy foods, is important to the health of your teeth.
Belief 4: Fluoride is always dangerous. I should always stick to fluoride free products.
People can have some strongly held beliefs about fluoride in toothpaste. Sometimes, those beliefs are not supported by good, current research. It seems, based on the best research, that fluoride is a good thing in moderation, not too much and not too little.
Current research indicates that fluoride in toothpaste helps the minerals that dissolve out of the teeth after eating reattach to the enamel as the pH rises again. Fluoride is an important tool to keep white, demineralized spots from developing on teeth. Brushing with a fluoride toothpaste or tooth gel is recommended for most adults and children who can do so properly.
It is well known that too much fluoride can cause brown, discolored spots on the teeth if the teeth are exposed to too much fluoride before they finish developing. It’s a condition called fluorosis. That’s why it’s important to supervise small children while they brush their teeth. A fluoride free tooth gel may be appropriate for young children who swallow toothpaste; check with your dentist if you have questions.
Belief 5: Fluoride only helps before the teeth erupt.
While we know that too much fluoride can injure developing teeth, we also know that some fluoride can strengthen developing teeth. This was a theory at one time, that fluoride could only be incorporated into developing teeth. According to this theory, only young children would benefit from fluoride since they were the only ones who were still growing new teeth.
We now know that fluoride on the surface of the teeth helps minerals reattach to teeth, so even fully grown teeth benefit from fluoride therapy. A toothpaste with minerals and fluoride is the most effective home care product, when used properly, to avoid white spot lesions.