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How to Whiten Teeth with Braces: What You Need To Know

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Braces are a versatile dental product with several amazing benefits. They correct a wide range of dental issues, from gapped teeth to crooked and crowded teeth. These benefits do not only impact your dental health but also your smile and confidence. This is why “how to whiten teeth with braces” is often one of the most common questions asked by dental braces users.

Oftentimes, the teeth get stained from food, drinks, and even braces, so brushing alone may not be able to whiten your teeth. The good news is that there are a few ways to whiten your teeth if you wear braces. The effectiveness of these methods depends on the type of braces you have, among various other factors. Here’s how to whiten teeth with braces using safe and effective methods.

Understanding the Challenges

Braces are placed on all teeth, molars included, covering certain parts of the teeth. Therefore, whitening the teeth while wearing braces can sometimes result in an uneven color shade. This is because, with braces on, certain parts of the teeth may not be reached with the whitening agent.

Even if you bleach the teeth as best as you can, there could still be a mismatch in color between the area of the teeth exposed and those covered by the braces. So, to get the best result, you have to consider the type of braces you have on and the whitening agent to go for. This is discussed extensively below.

Types of Braces and their Impact on Teeth Whitening

The teeth-whitening method you choose depends solely on the type of braces you have. So the first step to teeth whitening for braces is identifying your braces type and their impact on teeth whitening. Here is a description of the various types of braces available:

Metal Braces
Metal Braces

These are square metal fixtures known as brackets, which are fixed to the front of the teeth with wires. The brackets are joined together with wires, which exert pressure around the teeth. Sometimes rubber bands are stretched between the jaws to aid movement. Whitening the teeth while wearing metal braces can be quite challenging, as the teeth underneath the squares are hard to reach, so an uneven whitening effect may be obtained.

Removable braces
Removable braces

These are custom plastic trays that can be easily removed, like the ones from Invisalign. Removable braces are often made of clear plastic, and they can be removed for eating or cleaning the teeth. With removable braces, whitening the teeth is easier as they can be removed for cleaning. For instance, whitening during Invisalign simply involves removing the dental device and applying your preferred teeth whitening treatment to your bare teeth.

Ceramic braces
Ceramic braces

Unlike metal braces, ceramic braces make use of clear ceramic material for brackets. This alignment system is more discreet, although it is identical to traditional braces.

Lingual braces
Lingual braces

The brackets are hidden inside the teeth rather than outside, unlike other braces. As a result, this brace type is referred to as "inside braces." You can whiten your teeth using methods such as whitening strips and toothpaste with lingual braces. However, you cannot use a whitening tray due to the braces fixed inside the teeth.

The table below analyzes the different braces discussed above and the impact of the various teeth-whitening methods on them.

Teeth Whitening OptionsMetal bracesRemovable bracesCeramic bracesLingual braces
Whitening StripsNoYesNoYes
Whitening TraysNoYesNoYes
Whitening Toothpaste and GelYesYesYesYes
Whitening MouthwashYesYesYesYes

Pros and Cons of Each Method

When it comes to teeth whitening, there is a wide list of dental options to select from. However, not every option is ideal for certain types of braces. Here’s a quick review of the pros and cons of each method:

1. Whitening Strips

These are strips that contain a whitening solution that is placed directly on the teeth to get a natural white color.

Pros
  • Easy to use.
  • Cost-effective.
  • Do not require a prescription.
Cons
  • It cannot be used over metal or ceramic braces.
  • This may result in an uneven result.
  • May cause teeth or gum sensitivity.

2. Whitening Trays

Teeth whitening trays are dental kits that include a tooth tray and a gel-like whitening bleaching agent. The bleaching or whitening agent is placed in the tray and then over the teeth.

Pros
  • The application doesn't require a dental visit.
  • Affordable teeth-whitening procedure.
Cons
  • It takes longer to produce a result.
  • It cannot be used with metal or ceramic braces.

3. Whitening Toothpaste and Gels

These are toothpastes that contain abrasive and bleaching agents, resulting in the removal of extrinsic stains from the teeth.

Pros
  • It helps remove surface stains.
  • Brighten the appearance of the teeth.
  • Perfect for teeth-whitening with all types of braces.
Cons
  • This could lead to tooth sensitivity and gum irritation.

4. Whitening Mouthwash

These oral products contain bleaching agents, such as hydrogen peroxide. They help remove surface stains from the teeth, whitening the teeth’ appearance.

Pros
  • Brighten teeth.
  • Freshen breaths and wash out gums.
  • Can be used on all types of braces.
Cons
  • Mouth dryness.
  • Reduce salivary production.

Can I Use DIY Solutions Teeth Whitening for Braces?

Certain DIY solutions can be used to whiten the teeth at home.

These DIY solutions include:

Not all DIY solutions are recommended for teeth whitening with braces. Solutions such as activated charcoal and brushing with hydrogen peroxide can be abrasive, potentially damaging metal or ceramic brackets. Additionally, with the activated charcoal, particles could be trapped in certain parts of the braces. Unlike in-office dental whitening treatments, DIY solutions are less effective and take time to get notable results.

Post-Braces Whitening

After taking your braces off, your teeth may not be pearly white or evenly colored as a result of food and drink stains. These stains tend to be underneath the braces, which is why post-brace dental care is important. There are a few ways to whiten your teeth. These options include:

Professional Teeth-Whitening Treatment

With a professional whitening treatment, you can remove any stain gotten while using braces. This is one of the best choices for getting a quick result and removing serious stains. You can also get great advice regarding the best treatment for you from a dental professional.

At-Home Whitening Treatment

These options range from whitening strips to whitening trays and toothpaste. These options are more effective on bare teeth than on braces, as certain parts of the teeth are covered when wearing braces. As a result, an even effect may not be achieved with certain at-home whitening treatments. However, with such products, results may be achieved at a slower pace, unlike with professional whitening treatment.

Maintaining Teeth Whitening Results

Practicing excellent oral hygiene is the best way to maintain the results obtained from teeth whitening. Either with braces or without one, certain practices help prevent tooth discoloration, keeping the teeth white and clean. These practices are:

  • Limit the intake of foods and drinks that cause teeth stains and discoloration.
  • Substitute a regular brush for an electric brush, especially when using braces.
  • Brush at least twice daily and floss regularly, at least once daily.
  • Use teeth-whitening mouthwash daily.
  • Avoid surgery and highly acidic foods that could result in tooth decay.
  • Go for regular cleaning appointments with your dentist.
  • Avoid using tobacco products that could stain your teeth.

It is also important to speak to your orthodontist about fluoride treatments before and during braces, as this could help protect the teeth against discoloration.

Keep Your Teeth White and Smile Bright

Not all whitening methods are ideal for every brace type. Some of the safest options include whitening toothpaste, mouthwash, and gel. On the other hand, whitening strips and whitening trays can be used with a removable brace or lingual brace.

It is essential to identify your brace type as discussed above and go for the ideal teeth-whitening solutions. You should also consult your orthodontist or dentist for a professional opinion before using a teeth-whitening procedure on braces.

FAQ

Can I whiten my teeth with braces on?

Teeth whitening with braces is possible. There are a few safe and effective methods to whiten your teeth while wearing braces. These options range from over-the-counter teeth whitening products to in-office whitening treatments. It is important to note that the effectiveness of over-the-counter whitening solutions depends on the type of braces.

Why do teeth stain with braces?

Cleaning the teeth optimally becomes difficult with braces, so it is easy for food particles to adhere underneath the braces. This and drink stains over time result in discoloration. So it is important to practice excellent oral hygiene. This reduces tooth stains and discoloration and cleans underneath the braces.

Which should I do first–whiten my teeth or get braces?

It is recommended that you whiten your teeth after getting braces rather than before. Often, patients notice uneven tooth color when braces are removed. Whitening the teeth after removal results in evenly colored teeth. However, it is best to speak to a dentist or orthodontist before going for any of these options.

Are braces stains permanent?

Brace stains are not permanent. Wearing certain braces could result in tooth stains. With regular cleaning, the risk of tooth discoloration can be reduced. However, if you notice certain stains after taking off your braces, such stains can be removed with proper dental treatment.

Sources

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