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What Do White Spots Mean on a Toddler’s Teeth?

mother holding a toddler

What happens when your child’s pearly whites are a little too pearly white in some places? When white spots appear on a toddler’s teeth that are brighter than the tooth’s natural enamel, parents should take note and call their pediatric dentist for an appointment.

White spots on teeth typically appear for one of two reasons:

  • White spots on a tooth from fluorosis
  • White spots on a tooth from tooth decay (pre-cavity)

Although both of these issues are a cause for concern, they both can be treated with proper infant and toddler dental care. If you’re noticing white spots appearing on your toddler’s teeth, you need to consider both the causes and solutions to the problem.

At Toothfairy Pediatric Dental in Reno, we are able to help with all types of oral care issues like dental sealants and pulpal therapy. If your young child is dealing with white spots on their teeth, we can help with that too! Here’s what you need to know:

White Spots on a Tooth From Fluorosis

child squeezing toothpaste onto brush

Typically fluoride for teeth is a wonderful thing—in fact, we recommend it! However, did you know that it’s possible to get too much of a good thing?

Fluoride is a naturally-occurring mineral. In the early 1900s, a link was discovered between fluoride and strong, healthy teeth. By 1945, Grand Rapids, Michigan began adding fluoride to their water with encouraging results. The next decade saw fluoride toothpastes like Crest hit the market. Now, fluoride is available in many different forms to help keep teeth both healthy and strong.

The Mayo Clinic recommends that children as young as six months begin fluoride intake. However, if you notice white spots appearing on your toddler’s teeth, it’s possible your child has a condition called fluoriosis, which means they have actually taken in too much fluoride.

If you suspect your child is dealing with fluorosis, you should make an appointment to see a pediatric dentist. If you visit us here at Toothfairy Pediatric Dental, we’ll ask you some of the following questions to help make a diagnosis:

  • Is your child drinking fluoridated water? If you’re living in the Reno area, the answer is likely “no.” Although Washoe County has some of the highest-rated water in the nation (thank you Lake Tahoe!), water from the Truckee Meadows Water Authority is not treated with fluoride.
  • Does your child use a fluoridated toothpaste? Many toothpastes for children have added fluoride to help supplement intake for children in areas like Reno that don’t have fluoridated water. Fluorosis can also occur If your toddler is ingesting toothpaste on a regular basis instead of spitting it out.

By asking these types of questions, we’ll be better able to get an idea of your child’s fluoride intake. In turn, we’ll be better able to make a recommendation for treatment. The best news about fluorosis is that, although it may not cosmetically pleasing, it is not harmful. In fact, the white spots on your toddler’s baby teeth are actually more resistant to decay than the rest of the tooth!

White Spots on a Tooth From Tooth Decay

dentists looking at x-ray

The white spots on a tooth can also be a cavity warning sign. Although fluorosis is a more benign condition, tooth decay needs to be swiftly addressed to prevent further damage.

Often, parents are confused as to why white spots can be a warning sign of tooth decay and cavities. “After all,” they ask us, “Aren’t cavities brown?” The answer lies in how cavities develop. When bacteria is not brushed away from the teeth, it can cause a filmy buildup called plaque. When plaque is not properly cleaned from the teeth over time, it hardens into tartar, a hard white substance. Tartar is typically the cause of the white spots on a tooth, with a cavity soon to follow if your child isn’t taken to the dentist for a cleaning and checkup.

How do you help prevent tartar buildup in a young child? Follow this short checklist to avoid white spots on your toddler’s teeth due to tooth decay:

  • Reduce sugary snacks and drinks. There are several types of foods that cause cavities. Remove the culprits from your young child’s diet, or at least reduce them to special treats that they only indulge in on special occasions.
  • Assist your toddler as they brush their teeth. A toddler shouldn’t brush their teeth on their own, as they may still lack the patience and fine motor skills to properly clean each tooth. Help your child brush their teeth until they are at an age to brush them on their own.
  • Brush your child’s teeth in the morning and evening. The key to ensuring plaque doesn’t build up in the mouth is making sure that your child’s teeth are brushed twice a day for two minutes. Sweep away bacteria after breakfast and before bedtime, and it will not have the opportunity to turn into white spots of tartar on your toddler’s teeth.
  • Buy an appropriate toothbrush. Your toddler’s toothbrush is an important tool. Consider the best type of toothbrush for your toddler before you make your purchase at the store.

Remember, if you notice white spots on a toddler’s tooth, keep a cavity at bay by calling Toothfairy Pediatric Dental in Reno.

Oral Care For Kids At Toothfairy Pediatric Dental

Whether you see white spots on your toddler’s teeth or not, you should take your young child to visit their pediatric dentist every six months. As your child’s teeth emerge from their gums, the dentist will take dental x-rays of their mouth to monitor their overall development. Then, they will gently and thoroughly clean your toddler’s teeth to keep decay and white spots from forming.

If you live in the Reno area, make an appointment to see the team at Toothfairy Pediatric Dental. We’re open on Saturdays to make setting appointments more convenient for your busy schedule. Plus, with six different locations, there’s sure to be an office right around the corner. We also accept dental insurance plans, including Medicaid.

Have questions? Contact us today so we can help!

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