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If you’re wearing braces, you may notice your teeth turning yellow. It’s normal for your teeth to stain a little, no matter how often and hard you brush. You may be wondering if whitening procedures or at-home whitening methods could work for you. Here’s why I think you shouldn’t whiten your teeth with braces on:
Teeth whitening methods work by either bleaching the teeth from within or removing surface stains with the use of strong abrasives. Teeth whitening isn’t recommended with braces on, because the enamel underneath the braces will remain unchanged, giving you a two-tone smile once the braces come off.
In this article, I’m going to cover most ways patients attempt to bleach or whiten their teeth in an effort to get rid of the yellowing, what works and what doesn’t, and most importantly, what’s safe and what’s not.
Can you get your teeth professionally whitened with braces?
Power bleaching or laser whitening your teeth in the dentist’s office with a strong hydrogen peroxide solution is the best way to significantly change the shade of your teeth. If you’re looking for that Hollywood white, in-office whitening is the way to go.
While enamel seems like a hard impenetrable surface, in reality, it’s made up of multiple prisms or rods with pores in between them, where stains and pigments can settle and darken the tooth. Professional whitening is the only method that removes stains from deep within the enamel’s structure.
If you’re interested in whitening your teeth now that you have braces, no dentist will accept to do this procedure for obvious reasons. The powerful whitening gel will only cover parts of your teeth, leaving the enamel underneath braces unchanged.
Once your braces come off, your teeth will look like a mosaic, with multiple colors, yellow patches, and possible white lesions from enamel damage.
What about home whitening kits?
The same principle applies to home whitening gels. No dentist will hand out home whitening kits to patients undergoing orthodontic treatment, and I strongly advise against purchasing these types of kits online. If anything, they may be unregulated and you may damage or bleach your gums, as well as your teeth in the process.
Can you use whitening strips while wearing braces?
Whitening strips are an easy discreet way of making your smile a little lighter. The change is gradual and the whitening itself doesn’t last for many months until you have to use new strips. The strips usually only cover the front teeth, and you have to thoroughly press them on your teeth surface.
If you’re wearing aligners or lingual braces, you might be able to do this, but with traditional braces, it will be next to impossible to lay the whitening strips flat on your teeth. As a result, the peroxide film will unevenly distribute on your teeth.
I don’t suggest giving whitening strips a try while wearing braces, but if you’re set on using them, your teeth will go back to their natural color in time.
Is it safe to use activated charcoal with braces on?
Activated charcoal has been all the rage on social media for quite a while now. And the truth is, it works! But is it safe? And can you use it with braces on?
I vote against activated charcoal. It’s a powerful abrasive, much like sandpaper, that gets rid of stains by removing the top layer of enamel. In time, if you use it frequently, you’ll be rubbing down the top layer of your teeth, causing major sensitivity and potentially teeth that become even more yellow.
Imagine using activated charcoal with braces: you’ll have two types of enamel once your braces come off. One that you scrubbed on for months and one that’s been hiding underneath the braces.
Excessive charcoal use can even turn your teeth black in time, and that’s the opposite of what anyone wants.
Can you brush with baking soda while wearing braces?
Baking soda is the most common home remedy out there, and while there’s no harm in using a little bit of baking soda on your teeth every once in a while, it’s best to abstain from it while wearing braces.
The main reason is that baking soda has been shown to damage and loosen the glue that holds brackets and aligner attachments on your teeth. I advise you to stay away not only from baking soda but also from baking soda toothpaste, which can have the same effect.
Aside from damage to your braces, baking soda is a light abrasive, although not as powerful as activated charcoal. So excessive use will damage and scratch your enamel and irritate your gums.
Is whitening toothpaste a good idea if you have braces?
Whitening toothpaste brands claim to whiten teeth “without bleaching”. Because they contain silica or baking soda, they work much like any other abrasive. Some even have a blue pigment that counteracts the yellowness and gives the impression of whiter teeth.
Whitening mouthwashes contain hydrogen peroxide, a small amount of bleach that can penetrate the enamel. So while they’re not abrasive, you’ll be dealing with two-tone colored teeth when your braces are removed.
I don’t recommend you use any whitening products in your daily oral hygiene routine either. Instead, I suggest you see your dental hygienist more often for deep professional cleaning – we use abrasives too in the dental office, but far less often and in a more controlled way than you would at home.
You’ll be surprised how white your teeth will look after a trip to the dentist. Combine regular professional cleaning with the right choice of ligature colors, and your teeth will look so much better. Check this article on yellow teeth with braces to learn more.
Can you whiten your teeth with Invisalign?
Having your enamel partially covered by braces is the main reason why dentists say no to whitening procedures. But what about Invisalign? You can take it off any time you want, so can whitening be an option?
Most patients wearing clear aligners like Invisalign will have small pieces of resin glued to their teeth called attachments. These attachments are essential for moving teeth up and down or any other movements that are harder to complete with clear aligners alone.
These resin attachments work like just braces by obstructing part of the tooth and creating an uneven whitening effect. While you’ll only have attachments for the duration of orthodontic treatment, the “stripes” you may see in your teeth may last for much longer.
Is it better to whiten your teeth before or after braces?
It’s not wrong to whiten your teeth before getting braces, but I suggest you don’t do it right before getting braces. The enamel will still be porous and sensitive, and any food debris could cause cavities more easily.
Also, if your teeth are crowded and overlapping, whitening your teeth before orthodontic treatment will only access certain parts of your teeth.
The best time to whiten your teeth if you plan to wear braces in the near future is a few months after the braces come off. I don’t recommend doing it immediately after taking your braces off because your enamel will still have some scratches and your gums may be puffy and swollen from years of braces.
Whitening gels are irritant to the teeth and gums, so it’s best to be patient and wait to recover from wearing braces -a process that can take up to two months. With a little patience, you’ll finally get the white smile you’ve been craving for!
Hopefully, I’ve convinced you to stay away from any abrasives and bleaching gels while wearing braces. Your teeth may look better, but it’s not worth it in the long run. I suggest you embrace the natural shade of your teeth and try to maintain your teeth and braces as clean as you can by brushing after every single meal and limiting snacks.
Whether you’re new to braces or a braces veteran, taking care of your teeth (and your health) 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: