Best Braces Colors for Adults: Which one is you?

Many adults who wear traditional braces often feel self-conscious about them and prefer to go with subtle colors. But not all braces colors are created equal. Some stain, others make your teeth look yellow, and certain shades may not go well with your complexion or may not be appropriate for your work environment.

Most adult patients who come to see me get stuck when it comes to choosing colors for their braces. They say things like “Whatever’s most subtle…” or choose transparent ligatures (which you’ll soon learn is not a great idea).

So if you’re tired of the same old ligatures on your braces or don’t want your orthodontist to pick your colors for you, I recommend you make your decision more intentional next time you go in for your appointment.

Tips on choosing the most discreet braces

The only type of braces that allows color ligatures is conventional metal braces. They’re not discreet by any means, but they are reliable and budget-friendly.

If you want truly aesthetic, discreet braces, here’s what I recommend – from invisible to small and sleek:

  • Lingual braces. Lingual braces are the only true invisible braces because they’re bonded on the inside of your teeth. They may cause some discomfort to your tongue and not all orthodontists offer them, but for minor cases such as mild crowding, they’re a fantastic option.
  • Clear aligners. Clear aligners look just like retainers, so they’re barely visible, but they do give a plastic shine to your teeth, and the attachments most patients have on their teeth might also stand out. However, they’re still much more aesthetic than conventional braces.
  • Ceramic braces. Ceramic braces look beautiful on most patients, but they do take up some space, so if you have small teeth, maybe go with something smaller.
  • Self-ligating braces. Self-ligating braces, either ceramic or metal, are a great option if you don’t want to deal with stained ligatures or unflattering colors. They come at a slightly higher price and require a bit more care, but they’re worth it.

If you’re reading this article, I’m guessing the discreet options above are off the table, so let’s make the best of the most budget-friendly braces: metal braces.

Best colors for adult braces

Whether you want your braces to stay subtle or you’d like them to stand out, there are a few rules you need to be aware of when choosing your favorite color:

  • The more intense the color, the less likely it is to stain.
  • Darker colors make your teeth look whiter.
  • Red also helps your teeth appear whiter.
  • Darker shades go well with light skin complexions.
  • If you have a darker skin complexion, choose a pop of color on your teeth.
  • If you wear glasses, choose a color that matches your frames.

If the thought of color or elastic ligatures of any kind doesn’t appeal to you, you can ask your orthodontist to place metal ligatures on your braces: simple metal ones for metal braces, and tooth-coloured metal ligatures on ceramic braces.

Here’s what they look like, and the best thing about them is that they don’t stain, no matter how long it’s been since your appointment:

The downside to these ligatures is that they can hurt your cheeks and lips if they’re not tucked away safely behind the braces.

I personally find that the metal on braces can sometimes stand out in a negative way, so it’s best to disguise it with some colorful elastic ligatures. The purpose of these elastic ties is to secure the archwire within the bracket slot, but they also hide portion of the metal and help distract from the classic “braces” look.

Best overall Elastic Ligature colors

If you don’t like color or you work in a very serious, conservative environment, it’s best to choose grey or silver ligatures for your metal braces and pearl for your ceramic braces. Grey is different from silver since it’s lighter and doesn’t have any shine to it, so I prefer buying silver ties for my patients.

The reason I recommend pearl for ceramic braces instead of transparent ties is because pearl ties don’t stain as much. Transparent elastic ligatures get incredibly yellow in a short amount of time. Since they’re completely clear, they soak up all the staining pigments from foods. This is why I don’t endorse them and patients soon learn to stay away from them.

Now let’s move on to the actual colors that look great on adult braces:

My advice is to either go for intense dark colors to make your teeth look whiter, or a shade that matches the lipstick you usually wear. Here’s a list to make it easier for you:

  • Medium pink, fuchsia, violet, purple. You might think pink is too frivolous but it actually matches the color of your gums and lips, and goes great with makeup. Stay away from baby pink – it turns yellow. Match them with pink and violet lipstick.
  • Red, dark red, wine, maroon, dark purple. These colors look fantastic and don’t lose their pigment at all. Reds are both professional and bold. They also make your teeth look whiter.
  • Navy blue, indigo, medium blue, steel blue. Guys look great in these shades, but don’t limit these deep shades just to one gender. If you have blue eyes and blonde hair, they’re a great option.
  • Teal, turquoise and cerulean blue. These colors can look stunning on both metal and ceramic braces. They can be a bit intense, though, so choose them in the summer to go with your holiday vibes. Go with these fresh shades if you have a darker complexion.
  • Black. Contrary to popular belief, black can look quite good on braces, especially if your outfits are usually dark or you’re wearing black frame glasses. As a plus, it makes teeth look whiter.

Please note that powerchains are more visible than elastic ligatures, so don’t go with bold colors if you want your braces to remain subtle. Lighter or brighter colors tend to look better on powerchains than darker colors, since an excess of dark colors can be overpowering and appear like staining on your teeth.

In case you didn’t know, a powerchain is a string of connected elastic ligatures that stretch and cover your braces. It will look like this on your teeth:

Colors to stay away from

Now that we’ve covered what colors look good, a few words on what color ligatures to avoid. It will save you weeks of agony over stained, disgusting elastics that make you want to hide your smile.

  • Transparent. Because they’re fully clear, transparent ligatures will quickly get pigmented.
  • Neutral light colors. Unless you want a neutral yellow, stay away.
  • Light pastel colors. Most of them turn yellow, but some turn a horrible shade of green. Blue plus yellow, anyone?
  • Yellow and neon shades. Neon shades will lose their freshness, not to mention they don’t look professional.
  • Color combinations. It’s best to leave those to kids and teenagers if you want a clean look.
  • Green. Unless it’s a really dark green or a blue-green, stay away. It looks like parsley is stuck in your teeth.

Check this article on a more complete list of colors to avoid and do your homework for your next appointment.


Luckily, elastic ties are temporary, so you can try out new ones every 6 to 8 weeks or so. There’s nothing wrong with going on the wild side from time to time, as long as you have your classic palette to return to. And if in doubt, just stick with silver and you’ll be fine.

Whether you’re new to braces or a braces veteran, taking care of your teeth and gums during orthodontic treatment is crucial. That’s why I’ve put together a list of orthodontist-recommended tools that will make caring for your braces a breeze:

  • An awesome mid-range electric toothbrush. Rotating electric brushes are much more effective, in my opinion, than sonic ones. You can keep your teeth white by using whitening replacement heads.
  • A countertop water flosser to blast out food debris between teeth. I know handheld models are tempting, but you’ll need a lot of water. You can almost replace flossing with this and your gums will be healthier.
  • Braces accessories to get into all the nooks and crannies: straight or angled interdental brushes, floss threaders, orthodontic wax or silicone. For pain management, have gel ice packs handy, Orajel, and Mouth Magic (a cool soothing solution for mouth sores).
  • For clear aligner patients, a tool like PUL helps both remove and seat your aligner or retainer. Don’t forget to use a cleaning product like crystals to keep your trays fresh and hygienic.

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