Tooth decalcification is a process by which the teeth lose calcium. It typically causes white spots to appear on the teeth,and is considered an early stage of tooth decay,. Tooth decalcification can usually be reversed if proper oral hygiene measures are followed, but it can lead to irreversible effects if not properly managed. This typically occurs due to a build-up of plaque on the surface of the teeth, often due to poor dental hygiene. The wearing of braces can also lead to tooth decalcification, since it is often nearly impossible to adequately clean the surface of the teeth beneath the brackets.
Proper dental hygiene generally consists of regular brushing and flossing, at least twice a day, combined with annual or semi-annual dental check-ups. Tooth decalcification, and eventual decay, most often occurs as a result of poor dental care. When teeth aren’t properly cared for, plaque, a sticky, opaque substance comprised mostly of bacteria, is allowed to build up on the teeth. The bacteria in plaque normally produce acids that can damage tooth enamel, leaching its calcium away in the process known as decalcification. You can think of decalcification as the beginning stage of a cavity, when the acid has not yet reached the inner layers of the tooth, but has weakened the outer layer.
Once you have decalcification spots on your teeth, they are scars and cannot be reversed. They can only be restored by a dentist. Whitening the teeth can improve the esthetics of these areas, but the damage has been done and is caused by poor oral hygiene.
Fluoride use, along with excellent brushing and flossing habits, can help to prevent this decalcification scarring. In addition, fluoride can help to remineralize the affected areas to a point, but it cannot completely reverse the process of decalcification. Once you have decalcification spots, those areas will be susceptible to becoming cavities in the future.