August 18, 2021 by Dr. Abhi Singh

Teeth Whitening with Braces: What You Need To Know

The process of teeth whitening is something that many people want to do. Braces can sometimes make it difficult to get the results you are looking for, but several options are available. The key is to find a solution that will be effective and gentle on the sensitive teeth and gum tissue. However, it’s essential to know if your orthodontist will allow it or not, so talk to them first before trying anything on your own.

However, the whitening process would depend on whether you have traditional braces, ceramic braces, or clear aligners. Unfortunately, there are fewer tooth whitening options when it comes to those who have metal braces. 

This blog post will discuss whether it is advisable to whiten your teeth while wearing braces and the risks involved. We will also look at some alternative ways you can achieve a brighter smile in the meantime.

How Does Teeth Whitening Work?

To whiten teeth, cosmetic dentists use an active chemical such as hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide. These chemicals are effective and safe to use. However, they must be used sparingly to avoid side effects. Moreover, this in-chair whitening treatment is done in just 30 minutes. 

Hydrogen peroxide has long been used to whiten teeth. When applied, the hydrogen peroxide reacts with the tooth’s surface (enamel), which leads to brighter-looking teeth by oxidising them. It will also target any stains inside the dentin or tooth pulp that could be causing discolouration.

The majority of treatments do not seem to impact tooth enamel negatively. Still, some will cause changes in the enamel and induce tooth sensitivity when the gel is left on the teeth for some time.

Is It Safe to Use Teeth Whitening While Wearing Braces?

Braces are notorious for leaving your pearly whites looking stained. However, you can fight tooth-stains and sanitation issues by wearing braces with the proper oral hygiene routine. Stains on teeth can occur when food debris is lodged in between brackets and wires. Therefore, the discolouration that appears on teeth is a byproduct of the accumulation of bacteria and plaque on teeth.

Teeth whitening while wearing braces is safe but can leave teeth with uneven colour as the whitening solution can not reach the surface of the teeth blocked by the brackets or parts of your teeth that are shifting and overlapping. Moreover, whitening toothpaste typically won’t provide you with a significantly brighter smile. Still, it might lighten your teeth enough to make a noticeable change.

Should you choose to whiten your teeth while wearing braces, there are several risks and side effects. One such effect is gum irritation, as whitening products increase tooth sensitivity, in addition to the discomfort caused by braces.

Furthermore, your teeth will be sensitive during realignment. If you whiten them now, there is a possibility that it could cause complications and potentially harm your tooth enamel as well. Orthodontic professionals recommend waiting six months to bleach the teeth after braces are removed to avoid this issue.

What Teeth Whitening Treatment Works Best when Wearing Braces?

You might be a candidate for whitening strips, gels, or trays if you have removable braces or clear aligners. For best results, people with braces should undergo the treatment after they remove their braces.

Whitening Strips

Whitening strips provide a cheap and easy at-home whitening method for your teeth. They contain either a bleaching agent or peroxide that offers a solution for removing stains from tooth surfaces.

Typically, you apply a whitening strip over your teeth once or twice a day for up to 45 minutes. Do this until the desired results are achieved. However, the downside is that these whitening strips contain bleaching agents, which can cause mouth irritation and tooth sensitivity.

This method can only be used when clear removable aligners or lingual braces are also being worn. Sadly, this is not a good option for those who have traditional metal braces since they won’t be adequately placed on the surface of the teeth.

Whitening Trays

For those who want a more customised approach to teeth whitening, you can use bleaching gels and custom trays that you can get from your dental professional.

To whiten your teeth using this method, use a dental tray with whitening gel on it. Insert the tray into your mouth every day for at least 30 minutes to 1 hour. It will typically take 2-3 weeks to achieve the desired results.

In some cases, people may feel gum and tooth sensitivity while using the tray. Therefore, you may only need to do it for a short period. Still, you can eventually work on wearing it for two hours when you don’t experience any irritation anymore.

Bleaching trays are an inappropriate option for braces because they require the procedure to be done over the teeth. However, lingual braces and clear aligners work well with bleaching trays since the gel can contact the entire front surface of the teeth.

Whitening Toothpaste

Most whitening toothpaste usually contains silica abrasive to help remove surface stains from teeth. Other kinds of toothpaste have whitening chemicals that get rid of teeth stains as well. Moreover, whitening mouthwash can also freshen breath and prevent new stains from building up.

For optimal whitening results, use a whitening toothpaste twice to three times per day and rinse with a whitening mouthwash once per day. As a caution, there are brands of toothpaste that are too abrasive since they contain bleach, which may cause gum irritation and eventually wear the enamel. However, you can find ones that do not contain any bleach at all, and, thus, will have a lower chance of causing sensitivity issues.

Further, the good thing about this is that it can be used with most orthodontic treatments.

Electric Toothbrush

Electric toothbrushes can give you a whiter smile without the use of any chemicals. Furthermore, they can effectively remove surface stains than regular toothbrushes, thus making your beautiful smile look brighter and whiter, too.

It would help if you cleaned your teeth in the same way with an electric toothbrush as you would with a standard toothbrush. One advantage of some models is that they have different brush heads specifically for people who wear braces.

However, a toothbrush with a rapid automatic motion may cause pain for sensitive gums; thus, it is challenging to use. Search for one that has a different speed setting so you can adjust it according to your preference.

As with the use of whitening toothpaste, this too can be used with braces.

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

To get the optimal result, dentists use an intense whitening agent and a special ultraviolet light to improve the shade of your teeth. It offers immediate results and superior effectiveness compared to over-the-counter whitening products, but it is more costly. 

When you have traditional braces, in-office whitening is usually postponed until after the orthodontic treatment. On the other hand, if you have lingual braces or clear aligners, then you can schedule an in-office treatment at any time. However, be aware that it may cause tooth sensitivity when whitening treatment while fixing your orthodontic problem.

How to Prevent Tooth Discolouration While Wearing Braces?

The food left between the wires and brackets is a breeding ground for bacteria and can lead to discolouration. The buildup of plaque will cause stains or spots on your teeth. Moreover, this indicates that you need better daily oral care habits, such as brushing after every meal with an electric toothbrush, flossing at least once per day, and using mouthwash.

Do not drink or consume foods that cause staining, including soda, coffee, and other beverages, to protect your teeth from stains. You should also avoid high-sugar and acidic foods, which can cause tooth decay. Also, smoking cigarettes and chewing tobacco can lead to many health problems, including stained teeth and gum disease. Thus, it should be avoided.

When you have teeth with braces, you must keep on top of your dental health by making regular appointments with the orthodontist and inquiring about fluoride treatments, since they help guard the teeth against discolouration and cavities.

Learn More: What Causes Teeth Discolouration

Final Thoughts

When you have braces, it can be challenging to have whiter teeth. Though there are many options, there is no one-size-fits-all answer as every person and their orthodontist will have different needs. However, you can obtain the desired result with the proper dental care and treatment plan in place.

The end goal of any dental procedure should be to improve the quality of life for patients. It may seem like an impossible task at first glance, but our team is ready to show you how it’s done. Give us a call today at 08 9532 0247 if this sounds like something you might want to explore further with one of our experts.

AboutDr. Abhi Singh
Dr Abhi is a member of the Australian Dental Association and loves living and working in our community. He has over a decade of experience in all aspects of dentistry with a special interest in implants, wisdom teeth removal and cosmetic dentistry.