Studies show that 85% of people who wear braces may develop white spot lesions on their teeth. These white, chalky spots are a precursor to tooth decay. They tend to be permanent too.
The white spots, also called demineralization, are the decalcified areas of the teeth where plaque builds up for long periods of time. Demineralization forms when acids from plaque attack the tooth surface, leaving small holes in the enamel and changing the way it reflects light, hence the chalky appearance.
What causes white spots?
Inadequate brushing and flossing cause white spots.
The bacteria in plaque produce acid that dissolves the minerals on your teeth. Because braces house so many nooks and crannies that can trap food and plaque, brace-wearers need a little more effort to keep their teeth clean. Poor oral hygiene will leave plaque on your teeth, eventually causing white spots and gum disease.
How can I prevent white spots?
When it comes to brushing your teeth, a good technique goes a long way. Most orthodontists recommend brushing with a fluoride toothpaste after every meal or snack. This may sound tedious but keeping your oral hygiene in check is vital especially during the course of your orthodontic treatment. This new study shows that high-fluoride toothpaste may prevent white spot lesions from braces.
Using a soft-bristled toothbrush, place your brush at a 45º angle against your gums. Maintain a slow circular motion and gently brush along the gum line where the gums and teeth meet. Guide your brush in and around all of the brackets and wire. Remember to brush the insides of your teeth and the back of your mouth behind your back molars. An electric toothbrush may be helpful.
Don’t forget to floss every day. It may feel like such a hassle, but braces are notorious for trapping food even after thorough brushing. Use a special floss threader with a toughened end that allows you to thread between the gums and wires. Once you have the floss under the wire, use an up-and-down motion and gently slide it along the side of each tooth.
Be smarter about your diet. As much as possible, avoid a high-carbohydrate diet and stay away from soft drinks or any other carbonated drinks.
Visit your dental hygienist. Schedule professional teeth cleaning every 4-6 months. Ask your hygienist for other dental products that can help clean your teeth better while you’re wearing braces. He or she may suggest the use of a fluoride-enhanced mouthwash, an interdental brush or an end-tuft toothbrush.
If you or your child are wearing braces, be extra vigilant with your oral hygiene. Regularly check your teeth, or your little ones’, and see your dentist immediately if you notice white spots forming on your teeth.