White spots on your child’s teeth can mean one of three things….
Firstly, it can be a white spot called Enamel Hypoplasia. This is a very common white spot that is formed during tooth development. The defect can be milky white, yellow or brown in color. There is nothing to be concerned about with this white lesion. It will not get bigger or spread to other teeth. It is an area that your dentist will take note of, and monitor. These white spots are less mineralized, so keeping them clean is important. They are more prone to stain and getting cavities.
If the white spots were not there when the tooth erupted, and have formed recently, this is likely the beginning stage of decay. Plaque that sits on the tooth surface will cause demineralization. It will appear as a white lesion, usually near the gum line. If you notice this, a visit to your dentist is recommended. If the white spot is superficial, then a topical application of fluoride can be done to strengthen the lesion. If the white spot has become a cavity, then a filling will be done to prevent it from getting bigger and spreading to other teeth.
Less often, white spots are due to fluorosis, or too much fluoride during tooth development. The permanent teeth in children are starting to develop at age 3. If the child is receiving fluoride drops and is drinking fluoridated water, they may get fluorosis on the permanent teeth due to excess fluoride.
It is best to ask your dentist about when to start using a fluoridated toothpaste, and whether to add additional fluoride for your child. It is dependent on how your child’s teeth look physically and their risk for cavities. I will discuss fluoride further in a future blog post as this is a controversial and confusing topic for many parents.