How to Whiten Teeth With Braces

erica medical reviewer
Medically Reviewed
by Dr. Erica Anand
Michael Bayba
Written by
Michael Bayba
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Evidence Based
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11 sources cited
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Can You Whiten Your Teeth While Wearing Braces?

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:

  • Extrinsic (surface) stains — are stains caused by food, drinks, and other substances coming in contact with your teeth. They can be removed using LED whitening, whitening strips, professional whitening, and whitening toothpaste.
  • Intrinsic stains — are stains that form under the surface of your teeth. They can be caused by genetics, certain medications, mouth trauma, and medical conditions. They can be removed via LED whitening, whitening strips, professional whitening, but not whitening toothpaste.

Do Braces Cause Tooth Discoloration?

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).

Discover the top 10 teeth whitening products available today.


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.

Types of Braces and Teeth Whitening Options 

Traditional 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. 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

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

In fact, many clear aligner companies, including Candid Co and byte, provide free whitening treatment with your aligners.

Lingual Braces

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. 

Should I Use DIY Methods to Whiten My Teeth?

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:

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

NewMouth recommends LED teeth whitening systems to achieve a brighter smile. They are affordable, easy to use, produce minimal side effects, and highly effective.

View our review of the best teeth whitening products.


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

Which Whitening Methods are Most Effective?

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:

1. LED Whitening Kits

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.

2. Teeth Whitening Strips

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.

3. Professional In-Office Treatment

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.

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. Using these whitening products while you have braces can help keep your teeth free from new surface stains. 

Takeaways

  • The best way to keep your teeth looking fresh and white with traditional braces is to brush regularly with an ADA fluoride toothpaste. Brushing after meals will also help avoid tooth decay and staining.
  • If you have traditional braces, you can use whitening toothpaste to remove surface stains and whitening mouthwash to prevent new stains from forming. You’ll have to wait until your braces are removed to actually whiten all of your teeth.
  • If you have clear aligners or lingual braces, you can use at home LED kits, whitening strips, or get professional teeth whitening treatment to remove both intrinsic and extrinsic stains.
  • LED whitening kits, whitening strips, and professional teeth whitening treatment all provide similar results.
  • Professional teeth whitening treatment is the fastest and safest method, but it costs $40 to $1,200.
  • DIY teeth whitening methods have not been proven to be safe or effective

Resources

(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.

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