What Causes White Spots on Teeth?

Woman smiling during tooth examinationWhite spots or white spot lesions may develop on teeth for a variety of reasons. It is difficult to determine just one cause of white spots as there are so many ways that could lead to this type of discoloration. Luckily, white spots can be treated, and oftentimes prevented with proper oral hygiene maintenance. Our team at The Art of Dentistry, led by cosmetic dentist Dr. Robin Rutherford, strives to give our patients the best dental care possible while informing them on potential risks that can impact their smile. To help educate our patients, we provided a list of possible causes for white spots on teeth below:

Plaque Buildup: A common and treatable condition that may cause white spots on teeth is a buildup of plaque that has developed over time. Plaque consists of bacteria and the longer it sits on the surface of your teeth, the more it can compromise and weaken the enamel. When enamel breaks down, it can often result in white spots appearing on the surface of patients’ teeth.

Fluorosis: When a patient ingests too much fluoride, it may cause a condition called fluorosis. Fluoride treatments and general fluoride application are typically used to improve the strength of teeth and prevent the risk of decay in the future; however, overexposure to fluoride – usually from consuming fluoridated water, swallowing toothpaste that contains fluoride, and taking fluoride supplements – can cause white spots to form. 

Diet: A poorly managed diet that is unbalanced and features foods that are high in sugar and acidity can negatively impact one’s oral health. Foods and beverages such as soda/pop, sports drinks, acidic fruits, and sugary snacks can damage tooth enamel and cause white spots to develop on teeth.

Enamel Hypoplasia: Enamel hypoplasia refers to a patient’s enamel that is thinner and weaker than the average person’s enamel, making the teeth more vulnerable to damage and decay. This condition is typically the result of genetics, prenatal vitamin deficiencies, or dental trauma to newly developing teeth. Enamel hypoplasia can weaken the enamel, leading to white spots or visible lines on the teeth and/or tooth sensitivity.

Sleeping With the Mouth Open: One of the more unexpected causes of white spots on teeth is when a patient sleeps with their mouth open. Sleeping with the mouth open can cause dehydration of the enamel which can lead to white spots. This is a less severe case of white spots as they will likely dissipate throughout the day once the teeth come in contact with more saliva. 

How To Treat and Prevent White Spots

Treatment: Treatment will depend on the cause of the white spots in the first place and the severity of the condition. One way patients can treat white spots on their teeth is with enamel microabrasion, which is when a dentist removes a small amount of enamel to diminish the appearance of a white spot. Other solutions include porcelain veneers and dental crowns that can cover discoloration, chin straps that can keep the mouth closed while sleeping, and teeth whitening to aid in balancing the overall color of teeth.

Prevention: General prevention of any oral health-related issue is to maintain a good dental hygiene routine. By regularly brushing and flossing teeth, any potential infection or deterioration can be avoided. As for white spots, the same oral hygiene upkeep is true as well as maintaining a healthy diet that avoids highly-acidic and sugary foods and drinks as much as possible. Another key factor is to have dental cleanings at least twice a year so that a dentist can evaluate the status of your oral health and remove plaque and oral bacteria in hard to reach areas of the mouth.


If you want to know more about what causes white spots on teeth or are seeking treatment to remedy white spots, contact our practice today to schedule a consultation!