Do you have spots or discoloured patches on your teeth? Are they noticeable enough to make you feel hesitant about smiling?
You’re not alone. Spots or discolored patches on the enamel surface of teeth are common occurrences, and can be a source of personal embarrassment.
What ARE these spots and patches?
These surface irregularities on your teeth are actually enamel defects in the crystalline structure of your teeth. That’s why they reflect light differently and show up as spots or patches.
The good news is that correcting enamel spots and patches with cosmetic dentistry can be far easier than you realized.
Either your enamel didn’t form properly as a child, or it was damaged at some point in your life.
Here are 3 common scenarios…
1. You always had these spots or patches on your teeth. They came in that way. This is called enamel hypolasia, and it means some of the enamel didn’t quite form properly on the surface of your teeth.
Perhaps something happened when you were a young child during the time those teeth were forming. These enamel defects can be related to incidents such as trauma or infection of your baby teeth, prolonged illness or nutritional deficiency as a young child, swallowing too much fluoridated toothpaste, or simply genetic variance.
2. The spots showed up after having your orthodontic braces removed. This is decalcification of your enamel caused by uncontrolled plaque buildup around orthodontic brackets.
Young teens are often into high-sugar diets and not consistent with their dental hygiene. Add the extra challenge of cleaning around orthodontic brackets and the risk of enamel decalcification becomes very high.
3. The spots gradually started showing up as you grew older. This is likely a progressive decalcification of your enamel.
Perhaps you’ve been consistently missing some areas when brushing and flossing. The gumline areas of back teeth is a common spot to miss. If plaque is allowed to flourish on your teeth, your enamel will eventually pay the price.
Another possibility is consuming too much acidic foods and beverages. Sour candies, sodas, sports drinks, white wine and lemons are among the common Acid Attack culprits. You can gradually dissolve your enamel.
Combining high acidic, high sugar beverages with poor plaque control can lead to rapid destruction of teeth, as seen with meth mouth cases.
As a Toronto Cosmetic Dentist, I meet many people that are well aware of the enamel defects on their teeth, but not aware of their options to remove or mask them.
Enamel defects can be superficial or deep. Treatment all depends on the severity of the defect. Here are 5 common treatment choices in ascending order of complexity.
1. Polish the surface. Stripping the enamel surface of your teeth can be remove shallow defects. This is the best case scenario as it's fast and minimally invasive.
2. Whiten your teeth. Sometimes whitening the rest of your teeth will reduce the visibility of white spots or patches. This is unpredictable, as sometimes the spots become MORE pronounced with teeth whitening.
3. Cosmetic Bonding. Clean out the enamel defect and fill it in with tooth-coloured filling. This technique is used for deeper, more pronounced defects.
4. Veneer. Resurface the entire front of your teeth with resin or porcelain veneers. If the defect is large or your tooth is misshapen, the front facing can be completely resurfaced. If multiple teeth are involved, veneers become more viable.
For smile makeovers, porcelain veneers are stronger and provide a spectacular look.
5. Crown. Cover your entire tooth with a full crown. When the integrity of a tooth is significantly compromised, more drastic measures are required to cover and protect the tooth.
Treatment choice is determined by how big, how deep and how many teeth are involved.
Should you do anything? Before deciding to take action, ask yourself these questions:
1. How noticeable is the defect?
2. How much does it bother you?
3. How difficult/invasive/costly would it be to correct it?
4. How risky would it be to leave it as is?
Does the spot or patch indicate a potential threat? Enamel defects can be just a cosmetic issue, or can represent a vulnerable area with a potential for future problems.
This is where an experienced cosmetic dentist can help you. They represent that trusted advisor who can assist you in understanding your situation and navigating through your many cosmetic options.
About the Author: Dr. Joe Bulger is a cosmetic dentist from Toronto, Canada and the owner-founder of Royal York Dental. A prestigious office serving West Toronto since 1950.
If you would like to learn more about your cosmetic dentistry options, fill out our contact form or CALL 416 231-0550 for a FREE & Easy No-Obligation First Visit.