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Stained Teeth from Braces

Ellie Swain Headshot
Written by
Ellie Swain
Medically Reviewed by 
Dr. Erica Anand
6 Sources Cited

What Causes Teeth Staining After Braces?

Braces use brackets and wires to straighten misaligned teeth. However, sometimes braces can cause tooth discoloration.

Staining often occurs after braces because the devices make it more difficult to remove dental plaque

Plaque is a sticky film that develops on the teeth after eating or drinking. Plaque buildup is common around the brackets and behind the braces’ wire, both of which are fixed to the teeth.

Daily brushing and flossing removes plaque from the teeth. If it’s not removed, plaque eventually develops into thickened calculus or tartar. Calculus can be brown or yellow.

Tartar or calculus cause demineralization. Demineralization eats away tooth enamel and usually leaves white spots. Left untreated, cavities can form. 

Demineralization is a more serious type of staining. Fortunately, this condition is treatable, and it’s possible to stop it from turning into a cavity.

How to Prevent Teeth Stains With Braces

Here are some tips to prevent staining while wearing braces:

Brushing

If you wear braces, it’s even more important to brush your teeth regularly to remove plaque buildup. Be sure to brush thoroughly with a soft-bristle head and fluoride toothpaste

Without braces, you should brush your teeth at least twice a day. With braces, though, it’s best to brush after every meal to prevent staining and remove food debris. 

Consider using an electric toothbrush with an orthodontic head. This type of toothbrush cleans between the brackets and wires of braces most efficiently. 

Rinsing

If you can’t brush your teeth after eating, rinse your mouth with water or a fluoride rinse instead. 

Check your teeth and braces after rinsing to make sure you removed all of the food from your teeth, wires, and brackets.

Flossing

Floss your teeth at least once a day. 

Floss threaders can be used to help clean around the brackets and wires. A smaller toothbrush may also help clean any hard-to-reach areas. 

Interproximal flossers are a great option for orthodontic patients. The small bristles can get between the brackets and wires easily to remove food and plaque debris.

Together, flossing and brushing can reduce plaque for 1 to 3 months compared to brushing alone.1

Routine Dentist Visits

Keep your teeth healthy by scheduling regular cleanings and checkups at your dentist. Your dentist can also assess any problem areas if they notice plaque buildup under or around your braces.

Be sure to follow your dentist’s directions carefully while wearing braces. If you don’t, you might need to wear braces for an extended period. This increases your risk of discoloration.

Diet

Some foods can get caught in or break your braces. They can also contribute to plaque buildup and tooth decay.

These foods and beverages include:

  • Sugary and starchy foods
  • Sugary drinks like soda
  • Sticky foods like gum 
  • Hard or crunchy foods like raw carrots or nuts

Alternative Treatments

If you’re trying to avoid tooth discoloration from braces, alternative orthodontic treatments are available.

The most popular option is invisible braces (clear aligners). These are clear plastic trays that mold to your teeth. They can be removed for eating and cleaning at any time. It’s also possible to add a whitening agent inside the trays to brighten the aligners and your teeth.

Unlike traditional braces, invisible braces are not cemented to your teeth. As long as you keep the trays clean, they shouldn’t cause plaque buildup like traditional braces often do.

Many people are satisfied with the look of their teeth after combining invisible braces with whitening compared to using one or the other alone.2

Treatment for Tooth Discoloration

If you have tooth discoloration from braces, here are some treatments that can help brighten your smile: 

Teeth Whitening

There are various types of at-home and in-office teeth whitening treatments.

For example, Zoom is a popular in-office whitening system that takes an hour. During the treatment, your dentist applies a potent peroxide gel to your tooth enamel. A light is used to accelerate the breakdown of the peroxide and speed up the whitening process.

In-office whitening treatment is very effective. You’ll notice significant results after just one treatment. However, it’s also expensive ($600 or more per treatment).

At-home whitening treatments are less expensive but require more upkeep. Popular treatments include:

Whitening products are most effective after you have your braces removed. If you’re still wearing braces, using whitening products with an electric toothbrush can help prevent discoloration.

Remember: If you have demineralization spots or tooth decay, whitening products are not recommended. Demineralization white spots will only become whiter and not match your adjacent teeth. Tooth decay should be treated prior to teeth whitening. Whitening will not whiten or affect dental restorations.

Speak with your dentist about what would work best for your teeth. 

Remineralization

It’s impossible to grow back the enamel you’ve lost. But it’s possible to stop the demineralization and white spots that often develop with it.

The following can help remineralize your teeth:

  • Regular brushing
  • Removing sugar from your diet
  • Reducing fruit and dairy intake
  • Taking vitamin and probiotic supplements
  • Using remineralizing toothpaste

Dentists recommend treatments like MI Paste to help remineralize teeth, ICON, and custom fluoride trays.

Composite Restorations

If your braces stained your teeth, your dentist might suggest composite restorations. This involves fixing a tooth-colored resin to your teeth to make the shape and color seem more natural and healthy.

White spots often cause small dents in the teeth. As such, small cavities might form on the affected teeth. Your dentist can fix the cavity with resin that matches the surrounding teeth. In severe cases, the enamel will be damaged.

It’s best to have the cavity filled before further complications develop.

Microabrasion

Microabrasion involves polishing the affected teeth with a fine polish. This polish consists of pumice or silicon carbide and hydrochloric acid.

Your dentist will lightly polish each stained tooth for a few minutes. The polishing removes a small portion of the outer enamel layer, exposing new enamel.

The new enamel is lighter in color. Spots will be much less noticeable or disappear altogether.

Veneers

In extreme cases of staining, your dentist might recommend veneers. Veneers are thin, tooth-colored shells fixed to the front surfaces of teeth.

They help restore teeth that are heavily discolored or irregularly shaped.

Summary

  • Braces are an effective way to straighten teeth. But they can sometimes leave stains once they’re removed.
  • Discoloration from braces can be permanent if left untreated.
  • Some ways to prevent teeth staining from braces include following a regular brushing and teeth-cleaning routine.
  • There are also several ways to reduce or remove stains, including teeth whitening, restorations, and microabrasion.
Last updated on April 26, 2022
6 Sources Cited
Last updated on April 26, 2022
All NewMouth content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to ensure the information is factual, current, and relevant.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only cite from current scientific research, such as scholarly articles, dentistry textbooks, government agencies, and medical journals. This also includes information provided by the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
  1. Don’t Toss the Floss! The Benefits of Daily Cleaning Between Teeth, News in Health (NIH), November 2016
  2. Tooth Whitening in Association with Clear Aligner Treatment, Journal of Clinical Orthodontics, September 2019
  3. Baik, Un-Bong et al. “Teeth discoloration during orthodontic treatment.” Korean journal of orthodontics vol. 47,5 : 334-339
  4. Srivastava, Kamna et al. “Risk factors and management of white spot lesions in orthodontics.” Journal of orthodontic science vol. 2,2 : 43-9
  5. Khoroushi, Maryam, and Marzie Kachuie. “Prevention and Treatment of White Spot Lesions in Orthodontic Patients.” Contemporary clinical dentistry vol. 8,1 : 11-19
  6. Korkmaz, Yasemin Nur, and Musa Bulut. “Effect of mouthwashes on the discoloration of bracket-bonded tooth surfaces: an in vitro study.” Clinical oral investigations vol. 24,11 : 3855-3861
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