When playing with your toddler or preschooler, laughing and having a great time, it's not unusual to notice a few light blemishes on some of their teeth when they open their mouth mid-laugh. Although you don't want to panic, you do want to take action if you see white spots on baby teeth. Often those spots can be an early sign of tooth decay, but it can also be an indication that your child is getting too much fluoride.
Decay and Cavities
White spots are often one of the first signs of tooth decay in children. The spots often appear along the gumline and are usually a chalky, pale color. If the decay continues, these spots will eventually turn brown or yellow.
The good news is that, at this point, the decay is still reversible. Once you see these spots on your child's teeth, schedule an appointment with your family dentist. He or she will most likely provide a gentle fluoride treatment and clear any plaque and tartar off of the enamel while they're there. Receiving fluoride early in the process can help reverse the decay by strengthening your child's tooth enamel and preventing the formation of acid that wears away the teeth over time.
Sometimes, however, white spots on baby teeth can be a sign of too much of a good thing – not too little. This is called fluorosis, the signs of which develop when a person gets too much fluoride. In many cases, the white spots that develop on teeth affected by fluorosis are barely visible or only so when a child sees a dentist. The spots that form in this case might be blotchy or streaky.
Nonetheless, there is good news about fluorosis. For one thing, a child can only develop the condition while his or her teeth are still forming. And once the permanent teeth come in, the risk for fluorosis drops. Another advantage concerning fluorosis is that it may actually be helpful. The fluorosis people usually encounter in the U.S. can make the teeth better able to resist decay, according to the American Dental Association (ADA).
How It Happens
Although fluorosis is usually not harmful to children or their teeth, you should take action to make sure your child is getting just enough fluoride and not too much. Keep an eye on how much water your child drinks – one of a few major sources of fluoride in his or her daily routine. At this age, your child specifically doesn't need to use fluoride mouth rinses or tablets, unless the dentist recommends it to treat a separate issue.
It's a good idea to keep an eye on your child when brushing his or her teeth, as it's possible to go overboard with toothpaste as well. When it's time to brush, put just a pea-sized amount of Colgate® Kids Cavity Protection toothpaste on your child's brush and explain that the amount is just right for getting their teeth clean. Additionally, remind your child not to swallow the toothpaste; always spit it out when you're done. You might want to practice brushing together so your child can clearly see the right way to brush their teeth.
Whether spots form because of too much (or too little) of a good thing, they often form early enough that something can be done about them. So, don't delay if you notice a white spot or two on your child's teeth. Although these odd blemishes are developing on primary teeth – which will soon fall out – getting the right treatment is important for proper adult-tooth eruption later on. Not only will this help your child enjoy a healthy mouth from a young age, but it will help him or her learn excellent oral care habits that last a lifetime.