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Whether or not you can whiten your teeth while wearing braces depends on two factors:
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.
Learn about the safest ways to whiten your teeth.
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.
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.
See NewMouth’s top 10 teeth whitening products of 2022.
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.
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 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.
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 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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
Most DIY teeth whitening methods have no scientific evidence to prove their effectiveness.
DIY home whitening remedies can include:
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
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