Is It Safe to Use Teeth Whitening While Wearing Braces?

You may be wearing braces to resolve orthodontic issues like closing a gap between your teeth, or just to achieve a straight set of teeth for a better smile. However, the process takes some time, and you might be wondering how you can maintain whiter teeth or prevent tooth discolouration when wearing dental braces.

Many people find teeth whitening complicated because teeth can become sensitive, and teeth may re-darken after the treatment. If you have orthodontic braces, then teeth whitening can be more challenging for you. You will need to take special precautions when using teeth whitening products, especially if your teeth are already sensitive from wearing braces.

Read on as we will discuss how to get a brighter smile with braces and how we can help you.

How Does Teeth Whitening Work?

Teeth whitening is commonly referred to as teeth bleaching due to its active ingredients, mainly hydrogen or carbamide peroxide.

In teeth whitening products, hydrogen peroxide is a typical ingredient used by cosmetic dentists. According to research, this teeth bleaching agent is effective and safe when not overdone or misapplied and the manufacturer’s instructions are followed.. Furthermore, hydrogen peroxide has been demonstrated to be safely absorbed by the body with few negative side effects when used alone.

Peroxides in teeth whitening treatments penetrate the enamel layer of your tooth. These active ingredients bleach the chromogens, which are substances that cause discolouration on the teeth because of their colour or dark shades. During professional teeth whitening, the dentist will use a special light such as UV or LED lights for optimal whitening and advance the process.

Is It Safe to Use Teeth Whitening While Wearing Braces?

You may notice your teeth becoming yellowish when wearing braces. This is because the elastic material of the braces may discolour and turn a more yellow colour as a result of the food and beverages consumed. In contrast, the food can be stuck between wires and brackets, causing bacteria or plaque buildup. Thus, it is often assumed that braces put teeth at high risk of discolouration.

Once your teeth have accumulated stains, brushing alone may not be enough to brighten your smile. In this instance, a bleaching agent may be required. The good news is that you do not have to take your braces out to have a whiter smile.

It is safe to undergo teeth whitening with braces. However, when teeth are whitened while wearing braces, it might be hard for the whitening agent to reach areas where brackets cover the surface of the teeth and where teeth are shifting and overlapping, resulting in uneven shades.

There are various risks and adverse effects if you opt to whiten your teeth while wearing braces. Gum irritation is one of these side effects, as whitening products increase tooth sensitivity, in addition to the discomfort caused by braces.

What Teeth Whitening Treatment Works Best When Wearing Braces?

The suitable teeth whitening option will depend on the type of braces you have. If you are wearing lingual braces or clear removable aligners, you may be a good candidate for whitening strips and whitening trays as you get to have access to the front surface of your teeth. Yet, if you are wearing traditional braces with brackets and wires, it can be challenging to find an efficient whitening treatment. Thus, orthodontic dentists typically suggest whitening teeth following orthodontic treatment to avoid potential damage on the enamel surface or uneven whitened teeth.

Whitening Strips

A whitening strip is a type of at-home treatment. It is made of flexible plastic coated with a thin layer of hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide and offers a convenient way to whiten the teeth. There are several affordable white strips available on the market today. They are safe to use when properly applied on the surface of the teeth.

Typically, the plastic strips are applied to the teeth once or twice daily for 45 minutes, depending on how long the manufacturer instructs you to do so. Do this method continuously until you achieve your desired shade. The adverse effect of whitening strips is gum irritation and tooth sensitivity due to the concentration of bleaching solution.

Whitening strips can be used with clear removable aligners and lingual braces.

Whitening Trays

Another at-home treatment is whitening trays. You can purchase it from a dental professional, your local pharmacy, or even online. When using whitening trays, following your dentist’s instructions is essential to protect your teeth from harm.

The whitening trays come with whitening gel, and they also have hydrogen. It is better to use a custom-made tray to protect your gums from the whitening solution. The application process involves putting the gel on the tray, then fitting it on your teeth within 30 minutes to 1 hour.

You may experience tooth or gum sensitivity when using whitening trays. Continue wearing the tray for up to 2 hours per session if you don’t have any side effects.

Bleaching trays are not a good alternative for braces since they require treatment with the teeth exposed. But because the gel contacts the entire front surface of teeth, lingual braces and clear aligners function well with bleaching trays.

Whitening Toothpaste

If you have braces, the greatest remedy for stained teeth may be whitening toothpaste. They effectively remove extrinsic stains without the use of bleach. Additionally, they contain fluoride, which strengthens the enamel. Because whitening toothpaste does not alter the colour of your natural teeth, you will not be surprised by uneven white streaks on your teeth once your braces come off. 

This type of toothpaste is also beneficial for keeping your teeth healthy and free of bacteria and gum disease.

The good news is that whitening toothpaste is an excellent alternative to conventional professional and DIY whitening treatments. And you can use whitening toothpaste if you are wearing traditional orthodontic braces.

Electric Toothbrush

An electric toothbrush can help whiten your teeth by removing surface stains. No chemical agent is used in electric toothbrushes to change the colour of your teeth. However, they are more effective than a standard toothbrush at removing surface stains. It might make it appear as if your teeth are whiter.

Some models feature brush heads designed specifically for people who wear braces, which is an advantage.

Further, a toothbrush with a rapid automated motion may cause pain to sensitive gums, making it difficult to use. Look for one that has a varied speed setting so you can customise it to your comfort.

Can I Go for In-Chair Teeth Whitening While Wearing Braces?

Dental practitioners use a higher concentration of hydrogen peroxide and UV light during in-chair teeth whitening to change the colour of the teeth. Although professional whitening is more expensive than over-the-counter whitening alternatives, the outcomes are highly effective.

Suppose you want to whiten your teeth with braces on. In-chair teeth whitening and store-bought treatments can work, but they have limitations in treating your teeth. You may opt for toothpaste with fluoride and an orthodontic toothbrush to lighten and remove stains. For better results, you may wait until six months after your braces have been removed to undergo professional whitening treatment.

In contrast, people with removable aligners and lingual braces can go for teeth whitening in a dental clinic or over-the-counter whitening products like whitening trays and strips. But, potential side effects may occur, especially if you are suffering from tooth sensitivity due to orthodontic treatment.

How to Prevent Tooth Discolouration While Wearing Braces?

While wearing braces, the most important thing to remember is to keep your teeth and gums clean and healthy. Brushing into both sides of the brackets daily using an appropriate toothbrush is essential.

Food debris can be stuck between the wires and brackets, especially if your dentist uses molar bands. These instances can be a source of bacteria and stains or patches on your teeth when plaque builds up—furthermore, improving your everyday oral hygiene habits, such as brushing with an electric toothbrush after each meal, flossing at least once a day, and using mouthwash.

Tooth discolouration is preventable if you maintain proper dental hygiene and a professional cleaning appointment with the dentist. Brushing and flossing between your teeth and underneath the wires of braces remove any food lodged between them. It also helps to steer clear from food, drinks and habits that cause staining.

Final Thoughts

Maintaining a good oral hygiene routine can be challenging when wearing braces. But proper care prevents stains from accumulating around your brackets or even underneath them. If you notice mild discolouration, opt for non-abrasive whitening toothpaste and mouthwash to rinse off surface stains.

Suppose you want to undergo teeth whitening. The option will depend on the type of braces you are wearing.

Still, even if you don’t have stains after the dentist removes your braces, you’ll see slightly darker marks where the brackets were. Hence, most dental practitioners advise orthodontic patients to whiten their teeth after orthodontic treatment to whiten the teeth thoroughly.

We hope this blog is helpful and answers your questions regarding whitening the teeth with braces. Consult with our dentist today and give us a call!

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Peel Dental Studio

Dr. Bailey formerly served on the Australian Dental Association as President, Vice President Treasurer and Country Councillor. He was on the Australian Dental Association Federal Council and has always been keen to give back to the profession that has been his life. He has tutored student dentists at the Oral Health Centre in Perth.