Quite commonly we get asked if you can whiten teeth with braces on. A succinct answer would be that you can whiten them but the results wouldn’t be anywhere close to what you can achieve without braces on.
Having braces presents a major challenge for teeth whitening products because you have to work around them. The brackets and wires prevent a lot of the products from effectively delivering the gel to your teeth. Then there is also the fact that the bracket itself prevents the surface that it is covering from being whitened.
Despite all of these obstacles, we understand that having whiter teeth is a desired cosmetic outcome. That is why we will provide tips on how to whiten your teeth while you have braces on. The only caveat is that you must understand that the results will never be as good as if you didn’t have them on. If you accept that as a truth then you may proceed!
How to whiten teeth with braces on
All of the whitening products that use a delivery method to attach onto the teeth cannot be used. This means that the whitening strips and any type of whitening tray which you put over your teeth are instantly disqualified.
However there are plenty of other whitening methods which are still applicable:
- Whitening toothpaste. You just brush with it so while the braces may make it difficult, it doesn’t prevent you from using it.
- Whitening mouthwash. This is a liquid solution so it can bypass all of the wires and brackets.
- In-office whitening at the dentist. Yes your dentist can still apply the whitening gel to your teeth. It would be easier without the wire on. Just so that you know it will be no where near as effective as if you didn’t have the braces on.
The most effective way to whiten teeth with braces
- Use whitening toothpaste that contains hydrogen peroxide on a daily basis twice a day.
- Use a whitening mouthwash that also contains hydrogen peroxide in lieu of your regular one.
- Schedule an in-office whitening session with your dentist but make sure you get the wires taken off first.
Using the toothpaste and mouthwash on a daily basis will prevent further staining of your teeth so it is a must. They do help to whiten your teeth albeit not as effectively since the wires and brackets interfere with your brushing.
Your dentist can still do the in-office whitening if you go into the appointment without your wires on. The whitening gel can still be applied to your teeth but they’ll have to be placed around where the brackets are. The entire tooth except for the area underneath of the bracket will whiten. The reason is because that metal bracket protects the area underneath and prevents it from whitening.
With that being said, this is definitely not the most efficient use of your money because an in-office whitening session is not inexpensive. That is in fact the most costly whitening option. In our opinion you’re not getting the full value that you pay for by whitening with braces on.
For better use of your money we would recommend to wait until after you finish orthodontic treatment before doing it. Aside from that, most dentists would look at you as if you had two heads if you asked for whitening while in braces.
The safest and most affordable way to whiten with braces
- Definitely use a whitening toothpaste that has hydrogen peroxide like the colgate optic white. Brush for two minutes at least twice a day.
- Complement that with a whitening mouthwash that also has hydrogen peroxide.
The reason why you want a product with hydrogen peroxide is because that is the only ingredient that is capable of oxidizing intrinsic stains. Extrinsic stains can be removed by mechanical abrasion such as brushing but the deeply embedded internal ones need to be chemically oxidized.
If you use a whitening toothpaste that does not have any peroxide in it, it will only be able to remove the extrinsic stains but not the intrinsic ones. That means your whitening attempts are not as effective as they could be.
We consider this the most affordable way to whiten teeth with braces since you don’t have to pay for an in-office bleaching session with your dentist. That is literally the more expensive option that you can choose. If you go with only at home methods, you can save yourself a lot of money. Although you should be aware that they most likely won’t be as effective as an in-office session.
Unsafe way to try whitening with braces
- Trying to apply whitening gel from take home tray whitening products.
People get desperate to whiten their teeth and may try silly methods such as this. Perhaps they’re doing it because the in-office session is too expensive or the safe at home method isn’t working. They try this because these gels are at a higher whitening concentration than the toothpaste and mouthwashes. Consequently they’re hoping that they get a better result with this.
Unfortunately the risk with doing this is that if you get the gel onto your gums you can chemically burn them and turn them white. The toothpaste and mouthwash are a low enough concentration that they don’t whiten your gums.
In case you were wondering how you would bleach your gums, it would be if you used the whitening gels that were meant for whitening trays. Instead of using the trays, we’ve seen some people try to squirt it directly onto their teeth. Of course that is an imprecise method and often ends up whitening their gums because it goes all over the place. With the trays, it holds the gel in the correct spot.
Due to the high risk of turning your gums white, we do not recommend trying this. However if you somehow ended up bleaching your gums, there are ways to treat the whitened gums.
What about whitening teeth with lingual braces?
If you had braces that were on the lingual or tongue side, it would be a completely different story. That instantly makes a lot of the whitening methods significantly more effective since the front side of your teeth are now accessible.
This means that the whitening toothpastes, whitening strips, and the in-office whitening should be able to whiten your teeth unimpeded.
The whitening trays you still can’t use because the wire and brackets on the tongue side would still get in the way of the trays. This includes the professional take home customized trays as well as the OTC ones with the LED light such as SNOW whitening.
The most effective way to whiten with lingual braces
Without a shred of doubt, the most effective method for whitening teeth with lingual braces would be the in-office sessions at the dentist. Most of these techniques involves applying the whitening gel directly onto the front surfaces of your teeth by brushing them on. Since the brackets are on the tongue side, it will not interfere with the bleaching process at all.
In-office whitening products:
- ZOOM whitening
- KoR whitening
- Opalesence Boost
In addition to the treatment at the dentist we would still recommend using a whitening toothpaste and mouthwash that both contain hydrogen peroxide. You want to use it to maintain the level of whiteness and also to prevent them from staining.
After all, as you drink coffee, tea, and red wine the teeth will re-stain. You want to protect your investment by whitening them on a daily basis by brushing and rinsing.
More affordable way to whiten teeth with lingual braces
- Brush with a hydrogen peroxide containing whitening toothpaste everyday twice a day.
- Use a hydrogen peroxide mouthwash in lieu of your regular one.
- Use teeth whitening strips or the whitening pen.
That is probably the most that you can do since the ones that deliver the gel in trays can’t be used. You can’t fit the trays over your teeth since the wires and bracket prevent them from seating down.
This is significantly more affordable than professional whitening by your dentist. It will cost a fraction of what you would have to pay if you did it with your dentist.
Overview of whitening methods with braces
Certain whitening products may work with braces while others do not. To make it even more complicated, lingual braces also permit different products to work as well.
We will explore all of the various whitening methods and whether or not they could potentially work with braces or lingual braces.
Regardless of if you had braces or not, you still have to brush your teeth. This means that whitening toothpaste will still work whether you have the brackets on the front side or the lingual side Nonetheless, it still won’t have any effect on the surface area underneath of where the bracket is.
The wires definitely don’t get in the way of you rinsing your mouth. Since it is a liquid solution it will flow everywhere. However it still won’t have any effect on the spot where the brackets are covering.
The pen will work better if you had the lingual braces because the front side of the teeth are unobstructed. The regular braces may make it impossible for you to use it because you can’t paint around the wires.
These can potentially work better for the braces that are placed on the tongue side. This is because you can still stick the strips to the teeth, its just that you can’t wrap the back part of.
If you had the traditional braces, this wouldn’t work at all because the surface most people want to whiten are the front part. Since the brackets are on the front, none of it would get whitened at all due to the wires.
Pre-fabricated trays or customized trays
Unfortunately none of these products would work because the trays usually need to go over your teeth. Due to the wires and brackets adding extra bulk, the trays would not fit at all. Even if you manage to get them over the teeth, it wouldn’t hold the gel close enough to your teeth for it to be effective.
Yes, you can do in-office whitening regardless of if you had traditional braces or the lingual ones. However the lingual ones would permit a much better whitening experience than the traditional ones. For the traditional ones you wouldn’t be able to whiten the spot underneath of the bracket. The lingual ones would be unobstructed.
Chart of whitening methods and their efficacy with braces
This is a chart of what kind of whitening you can and cannot use with each type of braces.
Yes you can whiten your teeth with braces but it may not be as ideal or effective as if you didn’t have them. The reason is that you have to work around the wires and brackets. Then there is also the fact that the area underneath of the bracket directly will not whiten.
Nonetheless, it doesn’t mean that you can’t do it, its just that the results won’t be as good. However, if you had the lingual braces it does open up a lot more whitening options for you since the wires won’t impede you from whitening the front surfaces of your teeth.