Updated on February 7, 2024
6 min read

How to Whiten Teeth With Braces

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Can You Whiten Your Teeth While Wearing Braces?

Whether or not you can whiten your teeth while wearing braces depends on two factors: 

  1. The type of braces you have
  2. The teeth whitening method you use

Approximately four million people in the United States have braces.1 They are a standard orthodontic treatment for crowded teeth, overbites, underbites, and general tooth misalignment. 

Although braces are an effective treatment, many people are concerned that wearing them will contribute to staining. 

It can happen, but fortunately, there are ways to prevent tooth discoloration throughout treatment. This article explains how to whiten your teeth depending on the type of braces you have. 

Get your brightest smile with NewMouth's top teeth whitening picks for 2024.

Do Braces Cause Tooth Discoloration?

When food gets caught in braces, bacteria buildup can turn into plaque and tartar. Untreated tartar can result in stains or spots on your teeth.

Often, teeth affected by tartar can cause demineralization. Demineralization can eat away at tooth enamel, leaving white spots.

Types of Tooth Stains

  • Extrinsic (surface) stains — Extrinsic (surface) stains are caused by food, drinks, and other substances coming in contact with your teeth. Surface stains can be removed using LED whitening, whitening strips, professional whitening, and whitening toothpaste.
  • Intrinsic stains — Intrinsic (set-in) stains form under the surface of teeth. Genetics, medications, mouth trauma, and medical conditions can cause intrinsic stains. These stains can be removed via LED whitening, whitening strips, and professional whitening.

How Do I Prevent Tooth Discoloration With Braces?

The best way to prevent tooth discoloration from braces is to follow a strict oral hygiene routine. 

Brushing twice daily, flossing once daily, and using an antibacterial mouthwash will keep your mouth healthy and teeth white.

Types of Braces and Teeth Whitening Options 

Traditional and Ceramic Braces

Traditional braces are typically made of metal or ceramic brackets, a metal archwire, and elastic bands. They go on the front of your teeth, and your doctor slowly tightens the wire until your teeth are in position.

Treatment takes 18 months to 3 years, with the brackets in place the whole time.

Ceramic (clear) braces function like traditional braces but have tooth-colored brackets. They pick up stains easily from foods and beverages. If you choose ceramic braces, additional care is required to ensure the brackets remain white. 

Speak with your dentist about whether you are a good candidate for ceramic braces.

Teeth Whitening Options For Traditional Braces

The only whitening products compatible with traditional and ceramic braces are whitening toothpastes and mouthwashes. 

Whitening toothpaste can help remove and prevent surface stains caused by plaque buildup around your brackets.2,3,4,5,6 A whitening mouthwash won’t do much to remove stains, but it can help prevent new ones from forming. 

LED whitening kits, strips, and professional whitening treatments will not work on teeth with braces. These all can help whiten your smile once your braces are off.

Clear Aligners

Clear aligners are thin plastic retainers that cover the teeth completely. Unless you have special nighttime aligners, you must keep them on for at least 22 hours a day. 

Aligners are a popular orthodontic treatment because of their invisible look and faster treatment time (in many cases). Invisalign is the most well-known brand, with more affordable options rising in popularity. 

Teeth Whitening Options For Clear Aligners

Clear aligners allow you to use virtually any teeth whitening treatment

Many clear aligner companies, including Candid Co and byte, provide free whitening treatment with the aligners. SNOW carries a clear aligner whitening foam that whitens teeth and cleans the aligners simultaneously.

Lingual Braces

Lingual braces are similar to traditional braces, but the brackets are placed on the back of your teeth, making them virtually invisible. 

Lingual braces, or behind-the-teeth braces, are a popular choice for adults or people who want straight teeth but don’t want traditional metal braces. 

Teeth Whitening Options for Lingual Braces

You can use any type of whitening treatment with lingual braces. However, speak with your orthodontist to ensure your chosen product is safe to use during treatment. 

Which Whitening Methods are Most Effective?

Not all whitening treatments are created equal. Some can remove intrinsic and extrinsic staining, while others are only effective at lifting surface stains.

LED whitening kits, teeth whitening strips, and professional teeth whitening can all provide equal results and remove intrinsic and extrinsic stains.8,9,10,11 Professional treatment is faster but four to ten times the cost of at-home treatments.

The four most effective whitening methods include:

1. LED Whitening Kits

LED teeth whitening kits are an easy-to-use option that provides results in two weeks or less.

LED whitening kits come with an LED mouthpiece and a peroxide-based whitening gel. Users apply the gel to their teeth, followed by the LED for a specified time. 

NewMouth recommends LED teeth whitening systems. They are affordable, easy to use, have minimal side effects, and produce excellent results.

2. Teeth Whitening Strips and Trays

Teeth whitening strips and trays are other effective and affordable teeth whitening treatments.

Strips are thin, flexible plastic and coated with a peroxide-based whitening serum. Simply remove the strips from their package, trim them to fit your teeth, and leave them on your teeth for the time recommended on the label. 

Trays work similarly. But instead of a strip, you’ll use a disposable tray to whiten your teeth. These are typically more expensive than strips. 

3. Professional In-Office Treatment

Professional in-office whitening treatment is a safe and effective whitening treatment.

Dentists will apply a highly concentrated peroxide serum to the teeth before exposing them to an LED light. 

Professional treatment will give you the fastest results. Only one or two treatments are needed every year. However, this is the most expensive option, costing anywhere between $400 and $1,200.

4. Whitening Toothpaste and Mouthwash

Whitening toothpaste is effective at removing surface stains but not intrinsic staining.

Mouthwash is most effective at preventing new stains from forming. These whitening products, combined with braces, can help keep your teeth free from new surface stains. 

Should I Use DIY Methods to Whiten My Teeth?

Most DIY teeth whitening methods have no scientific evidence to prove their effectiveness. 

DIY home whitening remedies can include:

  • Charcoal toothpaste, charcoal powder, or any other toothpowder
  • Vinegar or acidic fruit-based DIY whitening
  • Fruit peels
  • Coconut oil pulling

While they may prove effective at times, NewMouth does not recommend using DIY methods for teeth whitening. Charcoal powder might cause adverse effects such as tooth decay and enamel damage.7


  • The most effective way to keep your teeth stainless while using braces is to brush regularly with ADA fluoride toothpaste. Brushing after meals also helps prevent tooth decay and staining.
  • If you have traditional braces, you can use whitening toothpaste and mouthwash to remove surface stains and prevent new stains from forming. You’ll have to wait until your braces are removed to whiten your teeth with other products. 
  • If you have clear aligners or lingual braces, use at-home LED kits or whitening strips, or get professional teeth whitening treatment to remove intrinsic and extrinsic stains. Be sure to wear your aligners for 22+ hours a day. 
  • LED whitening kits, whitening strips, and professional teeth whitening treatments all provide similar results, with differences in cost. Professional treatment is the most expensive but works quickly and lasts the longest.

Last updated on February 7, 2024
11 Sources Cited
Last updated on February 7, 2024
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. PDA Presents the Facts on Braces.” Pennsylvania Dental Association.
  2. Sharif, N. et al. “The Chemical Stain Removal Properties of ‘Whitening’ Toothpaste Products: Studies in Vitro.” Nature News, Nature Publishing Group, 10 June 2000. 
  3. Torres, CRG. et al. “Efficacy of Mouth Rinses and Toothpaste on Tooth Whitening.” Operative Dentistry, 2013. 
  4. Vaz, V. et al. “Whitening Toothpaste Containing Activated Charcoal, Blue Covarine, Hydrogen Peroxide or Microbeads: Which One Is the Most Effective?Journal of Applied Oral Science, 2019.
  5. Roselino, L. et al. “Randomized Clinical Study of Alterations in the Color and Surface Roughness of Dental Enamel Brushed with Whitening Toothpaste.” Wiley Online Library, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, 30 Mar. 2018. 
  6. Joiner, A. et al. “Whitening Toothpastes: Effects on Tooth Stain and Enamel.” International Dental Journal, Elsevier, 7 Dec. 2020. 
  7. Brooks, J. et al. “Charcoal and Charcoal-Based Dentifrices: A Literature Review.” The Journal of the American Dental Association, 2017. 
  8. Zekonis, R. et al. “Clinical Evaluation of in-Office and at-Home Bleaching Treatments.” Operative Dentistry, 2003.
  9. Heymann, HO. “Tooth Whitening: Facts and Fallacies.” British Dental Journal, 2005.
  10. Basting, RT. et al. “Clinical Comparative Study of the Effectiveness of and Tooth Sensitivity to 10% and 20% Carbamide Peroxide Home-Use and 35% and 38% Hydrogen Peroxide In-Office Bleaching Materials Containing Desensitizing Agents.” Operative Dentistry, 2012.
  11. Gerlach, RW. et al. “A Randomized Clinical Trial Comparing a Novel 5.3% Hydrogen Peroxide Whitening Strip to 10%, 15%, and 20% Carbamide Peroxide Tray-Based Bleaching Systems.” Compendium of Continuing Education in Dentistry, 1995.
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