Summer is here! The kids are out of school and the tight routines have softened. Our kids find it as a time to sleep in, watch more TV, eat more ice cream and just plain relax. After all, our children have worked hard all year and quite frankly, even as a parent, you need a break from policing their schoolwork and getting them off to school.
Frequently, lack of tooth brushing also falls into this lax summer regime. I know because every summer there is an increase in poor oral hygiene from the patients that come into my practice. A very common problem that occurs from improper oral hygiene during orthodontic treatment are white spot lesions. Studies have reported its prevalence in patients anywhere from 50-73% when patients are wearing braces.
White spot lesions are areas of tooth enamel that have lost calcium by poor brushing and high sugar/high acid diet. This is an early and visible sign of tooth decay in the enamel layer only. It is most commonly found on the upper front teeth, near the gum line.
At first the words “white spot lesion” may not seem like a bad thing since everybody wants white teeth but white spot lesions are the first sign of destruction of the enamel. Unless you are actively bleaching your teeth, your teeth turning white is not a good thing.
The tooth surface under the brace itself is protected by the brace and the cement. When the braces are removed, a white square outline is seen around where the braces were positioned. Sometimes these white spot lesions even turn brown. It can be very unsightly and rather upsetting especially when you spend two years in braces straightening your teeth only to have them look discolored in the end.
Prevention is the key. Brush well, limit sugary snacks and see your dentist frequently. Surprisingly, these white spot lesions can form in as little as one month. About 75% of white spot lesions can be significantly improved with excellent oral hygiene and the use of fluoride once the braces are removed. If the white spot lesions are irreversible, treatment may include micro-abrasion, bonding or even veneers. It definitely takes more time to brush with braces on, but they pay off is well worth it. While summer may be a time for you to retire your book bag, it is certainly not a time to retire your toothbrush. Don’t forget to floss as well!