Approximately four million people in the United States have braces.1 They are a common orthodontic treatment for crowded teeth, overbites, underbites, and other problems with alignment.
But the alignment of your teeth isn’t the only factor in a beautiful smile. We all want a brilliant pearly white sheen as well.
But is it possible to whiten your teeth while wearing braces? That depends on the type of braces you have and the whitening method you want to use.
There are two types of tooth stains:
When food gets caught in your braces, it can cause a buildup of bacteria. This can turn into plaque and eventually tartar. This results in stains or spots on your teeth.
At-home teeth whitening kits can give you the same results as professional whitening treatment in less than two weeks. (Be sure to follow instructions carefully).
The best way to prevent tooth discoloration from braces is with a strict oral hygiene routine. Brushing twice daily, flossing once daily, and using an antibacterial mouthwash will help keep your mouth healthy and teeth white.
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. The treatment takes 18 months to three years, and the brackets stay in place the whole time.
The only types of whitening products that are compatible with traditional braces are whitening toothpastes and whitening mouthwashes.
Whitening toothpaste can help remove and prevent surface stains.2, 3, 4, 5, 6 It can help remove surface stains caused by plaque buildup around your brackets. A whitening mouthwash won’t do much to remove stains, but it can help prevent new ones from forming.
Unfortunately, LED whitening kits, whitestrips, and professional whitening treatment will not work on teeth with braces. These all can help whiten your smile once your braces are off.
If you have traditional braces, you can use whitening toothpaste and whitening mouthwash to remove and prevent any stains that form around your brackets. Then once your braces are removed, you can use another teeth whitening method to achieve your desired level of whiteness.
Ceramic braces tend to pick up stains easily from foods and beverages. Speak with your dentist if you are a good candidate for ceramic braces. It takes additional care to ensure your tooth colored brackets remain white.
Clear aligners are quickly becoming one of the most popular orthodontic treatments. Many people prefer them over traditional braces because of their invisible look and faster treatment time.
Clear aligners are thin plastic retainers that cover your teeth. Unless you have special night time aligners, you need to keep them on for at least 22 hours a day. Fortunately, this gives you enough time to use virtually any teeth whitening treatment you want.
Lingual braces are similar to traditional braces, except that the brackets are placed on the back of your teeth. This makes them virtually invisible.
You can use any type of whitening treatment with lingual braces.
Most DIY methods have no scientific evidence to prove their effectiveness. Scientific evidence comes from studies that employ test subjects, a control group, and are carefully monitored to produce data. This data then helps to support or counter a hypothesis.
The results of DIY teeth whitening shared on social media are anecdotal evidence. This means that one person is sharing their personal experience. While these methods may have positive effects, they have not been proven to be effective at whitening teeth.
DIY home whitening remedies that do not have any scientific evidence supporting their effectiveness include:
NewMouth recommends LED teeth whitening systems to achieve a brighter smile. They are affordable, easy to use, produce minimal side effects, and highly effective.
NewMouth does not recommend these DIY methods for teeth whitening. In fact, charcoal powder might cause negative effects such as tooth decay and enamel damage.7
Not all whitening methods are created equal. Some are able to remove intrinsic and extrinsic staining, while others are only effective at lifting surface stains.
The four best whitening methods are:
LED teeth whitening kits are an easy to use option that provides great results in two weeks or less. They come with an LED mouthpiece and a peroxide-based whitening gel. You apply the gel to your teeth and set the LED tray in your mouth for the specified time.
NewMouth recommends LED teeth whitening systems. They are affordable, easy to use, have minimal side effects, and produce excellent results. View our review of the Best Teeth Whitening Products for more detailed reviews.
Teeth whitening strips are another effective and affordable teeth whitening treatment. The strips are made from a thin, flexible plastic and coated with a peroxide-based whitening serum. You remove them from the package, trim them to fit your teeth, and apply them for the directed amount of time.
Professional in-office whitening treatment is a very safe and effective whitening treatment. Your dentist will apply a highly concentrated peroxide serum to your teeth and shine an LED light on them. This will give you the fastest results. Only one or two treatments are needed. However, these treatments can cost from $400 to $1,200.
LED whitening kits, teeth whitening strips, and professional teeth whitening can all provide equal results and can remove both intrinsic and extrinsic stains.8, 9, 10, 11 Professional treatment is faster, but also four to ten times the cost of at-home treatments.
Whitening toothpaste is effective at removing surface stains, but not intrinsic staining. Mouthwash is most effective at preventing new stains from forming. Using these whitening products while you have braces can help keep your teeth free from new surface stains.
(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, Allen Press, 1 Jan. 2013.
(4)Vaz, Vanessa Torraca Peraro, et al. “Whitening Toothpaste Containing Activated Charcoal, Blue Covarine, Hydrogen Peroxide or Microbeads: Which One Is the Most Effective?” Journal of Applied Oral Science, Faculdade De Odontologia De Bauru - USP, 14 Jan. 2019.
(5)Roselino, Lourenço de Moraes Rego, 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, John K., et al. “Charcoal and Charcoal-Based Dentifrices: A Literature Review.” The Journal of the American Dental Association, Elsevier, 7 June 2017.
(8)Zekonis, Ruta, et al. “Clinical Evaluation of in-Office and at-Home Bleaching Treatments.” Operative Dentistry, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2003.
(9)Heymann, H O. “Tooth Whitening: Facts and Fallacies.” Nature News, British Dental Journal, 23 Apr. 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, Allen Press, 1 Sept. 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, Europe PMC.