White spots on baby teeth

Parents eagerly await the moment when a child's toothless grin turns into a toothy grin, despite the many inconveniences that teething can bring. For parents, there may be no greater concern than any problem visible on those brand-new pearly whites. Temporary teeth or not, baby teeth serve children from their early years through their pre-teen years. So it's perfectly reasonable for parents to want to take the best care of these tiny teeth and be concerned about any obvious imperfections they may notice. The appearance of a white spot or spots sends the concerned parent looking for reasons why this is so. There are two common causes of white spots on baby teeth and baby teeth – one that is fairly benign and one that requires immediate attention.

Cause #1: Fluorosis

Fluorosis is the likely culprit when white spots are visible on newly erupted baby teeth. Sometimes fluorosis appears as white streaks, sometimes it appears as tiny, irregular spots, and often it is barely visible or visible only on a close dental examination. Fluorosis develops when a child receives too much fluoride while the teeth are developing under the surface of the gums.

Fluoride is of great benefit to the growing tooth and a great protector and strengthener of tooth enamel. It keeps enamel hard and healthy as it combines with other minerals to form a hard outer shell that protects the inner tooth. But as with most good things, it's possible to get too much. The risk of fluorosis is only present before the teeth erupt, before they emerge from the gums. If this does occur, it is usually due to the use of more fluoride products (toothpaste, mouthwashes, etc.) and young children swallowing the fluoride products rather than spitting them out. Some areas also have high levels of naturally occurring fluorides in the soil, and fluorosis is more common in these areas.

The good news is that fluorosis spots are not weak spots on the teeth; in fact, they tend to be thicker than the surrounding enamel. They are not a problem from a health point of view, only a cosmetic one. Learning the proper cleaning technique can help prevent these stains. Using fluoride-free toothpaste for young children who are learning good habits may also be appropriate.

Cause #2: Tooth decay

A less benign cause of white spots on baby teeth is the early stages of tooth decay. Spots that look dry, chalky, and appear at the gum line require a visit to the dentist for inspection and possible treatment. These early decay spots are caused by the loss of minerals from the enamel. If left unchecked, the spots will turn yellow or brown and require more extensive treatment. With early observation by a dentist, when the stains are still white and just forming, it is often possible to treat the stains with professionally applied topical fluoride and careful removal of any plaque present. Fluoride replaces missing minerals and strengthens tooth enamel.

It is important to correct any bad oral care habits and improve any deficiencies in the child's oral care routine to prevent newly demineralized, early decay stains. Toothpaste containing fluoride with remineralizing ability is a good idea in the fight against the recurrence of tooth decay.

White spots on children's teeth: What to do

The bottom line remains that whenever a parent is concerned about their child's oral health, they should consult a dentist as soon as possible to ensure that their child receives the best possible care and that any problems can be treated while they are still young.

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