Not surprisingly, one of the questions our braces patients often ask us is, “Can I whiten my teeth with braces?” After all, when it comes to your dream smile, you’re most likely picturing not only a newly straight, healthy grin but a sparkling white one, too.
Bright, white teeth are a great enhancement to a post-braces smile for sure, but as your Henderson, NV, orthodontist, we recommend skipping teeth whitening products and services while you’re still wearing braces. Whether with over-the-counter or professional teeth whitening, removing teeth stains from braces is best reserved for when you’re brace-free. Even treatments that claim to be the best teeth whitening kits for braces wearers are best avoided if you’re looking for exceptional results.
Why avoid teeth whitening with braces?
Whitening toothpastes, gels, and mouthwashes. Professional systems or at-home, DIY products. A quick online search reveals there are many ways to whiten teeth. Regardless of your preferred treatment, we have a few big reasons why we suggest waiting to whiten teeth until after braces:
1. Whitening Products Won’t Necessarily Penetrate Behind Your Brackets
You’ll notice that with braces, only part of each tooth is visible: the parts of your braces called brackets are bonded with dental cement onto each tooth, obscuring some surface area. Most teeth whitening products won’t penetrate through the cement to your teeth, or they’ll whiten less effectively underneath there. So you’ll potentially risk getting uneven whitening, with only the visible parts of your teeth looking as bright as you expect. And when it comes time to whiten your teeth post-braces, the process can become a bit more complicated, lengthy, or expensive to even out a two-toned smile.
2. Overlapping or Misaligned Teeth Can Hide Tooth Surfaces
If your braces are working to straighten crowding, like twisted or overlapping teeth, you may find that some areas of your teeth aren’t exposed to whitening agents as well as others. The result? Uneven whitening that’s obvious when your braces are removed.
3. Increased Sensitivity from Tooth Whitening Products
Some teeth whitening products are known to cause tooth sensitivity, which can make your braces feel more uncomfortable than necessary. The reality is that you’ll already experience some slight tenderness at times from your braces, like when you first get them on and after parts of your braces are tightened or adjusted. So it’s worth considering whether or not increased tooth sensitivity from whitening products is your best choice when you have braces.
How to Keep Teeth White With Braces
By now you’re probably wondering how to whiten teeth with braces if conventional teeth whitening products aren’t recommended. Of course, Dr. Brady Okuda and your Okuda Orthodontics team is all for keeping your teeth white and clean during your braces treatment. So think teeth-friendly daily habits and excellent oral hygiene! Plus, if you take great care of your teeth while wearing braces, you’ll have an easier time with teeth whitening treatments once your braces come off.
With that in mind, here are tips from your Henderson, board-certified orthodontist for how to keep teeth sparkling with braces, without using teeth whitening products:
1. Strengthen Teeth With Healthy Foods
It goes without saying that a diet rich in vitamins and minerals can only benefit your teeth. Nutrient-rich foods help keep teeth and gums strong, healthy, and more resistant to cavities, tooth decay, and gum disease. So what are the top foods for maintaining whiter teeth with braces? In addition to foods loaded with vitamins C and K, and minerals like phosphorus and potassium, here are the healthy foods to keep in mind for white teeth include:
- Foods With Calcium -Calcium promotes whiter teeth by building strong enamel that is more resistant to staining foods like red wine, coffee, and tobacco products. Find calcium in dairy products like cheese, yogurt, or milk. Non-dairy foods rich in calcium include leafy greens like broccoli and kale.
- Foods with Vitamin A – You might first think of vitamin A as important for sparkling, healthy eyes — and you’re not wrong! But vitamin A also helps keep teeth sparkling as well. How? Well, vitamin A is known for promoting a healthy amount of saliva in your mouth and saliva is your first line of defence against the acids that weaken tooth enamel. You see, every time you eat, bad bacteria in your mouth feeds off the sugars from your food and acids are produced. Constant acidity can damage and demineralize tooth enamel, making it more susceptible to staining and cavities. Of saliva’s many contributions to maintaining a healthy oral environment, it does two main things to whiten teeth: it brings down the acidity in your mouth and it contains minerals that strengthen your teeth.
Encourage saliva production by eating lots of foods with vitamin A: leafy green veggies, fish, eggs, and orange-colored foods like carrots, oranges, and sweet potatoes to name a few.
2. Eat Sugary, Starchy, and Acidic Foods in Moderation
Sweet and carb-heavy foods contain lots of sugar that kick starts the enamel-weakening acidity in your mouth. To counteract the acids, we suggest swishing your mouth with water immediately after eating sugary and starchy foods to wash away the sugars. Then brush your teeth about 30 minutes after eating to get rid of any food debris. Why wait? Waiting to brush gives your teeth some time to re-harden after they’ve been softened by acids.
As for the worst drinks for maintaining white teeth with braces? Sodas, energy drinks, juice, and kombucha are all a double whammy of both sugar and acidity. You have to work extra hard to ensure these drinks are well rinsed and brushed away so they don’t weaken your enamel and contribute to yellowing your teeth.
3. Limit Colorful Foods that Can Stain Teeth
Now, you might be familiar with the phrase “eat the rainbow” when it comes to eating healthy. It’s true that colorful fruits and veggies are typically healthier than white, brown, or processed foods. However, some darker-colored foods can discolor teeth if eaten too often.
Coffee, black tea, red wine are well-known teeth-staining culprits. While enjoying too much tomato sauce, dark berries, beets, balsamic vinegar or other deeply-pigmented foods on the regular can discolor the areas of teeth not covered by parts of your braces.
4. Cut Out the Tobacco Products
It’s well known that habitual use of tobacco products yellows your teeth over time. Wearing braces is an ideal time to stop smoking so you can enjoy better overall health and whiter teeth!
5. Sip Drinks with a Straw
The less your drinks touch your teeth, the less likely they’ll stain your teeth. A straw helps you enjoy what you’re drinking — coffee, tea, brightly-colored soda or juice — while minimizing contact with your teeth!
6. Drink Lots of Water
Adequate water intake has many teeth-whitening benefits: increasing saliva production, ridding your mouth of food particles and sugars, even diluting foods and drinks that could stain your teeth. Try sipping water during meals or when drinking staining beverages.
7. Level Up Your Oral Hygiene Routine
Hands down, having a thorough oral hygiene routine is one of the best ways to keep teeth healthier and whiter during braces treatment. Take a look at our list of oral care habits that will help towards a brighter, whiter new smile:
- Brush your teeth in the morning, after meals and snacks, and before going to bed
Using a soft-bristled manual toothbrush or electric toothbrush, brush each tooth surface carefully with fluoride toothpaste. Be sure to brush around brackets and wires and along the gumline.
- Floss every day
Not a dedicated daily flosser before you had braces? Now is a good time to start since food, sugars, and plaque can easily hide in and around the individual parts of your braces — brackets, archwires, elastics. You’ll be happy to know that at Okuda Orthodontics, we make flossing that much easier by offering our patients self-ligating Damon™ braces, an innovative, streamlined braces system that is easier to clean around than traditional braces.
When flossing, make sure to floss on both sides of each tooth and into the gumline. And pro tip: a recent study showed that flossing before brushing is more effective than the other way around!
Now if flossing seems a bit tricky with braces, we suggest using orthodontic tools like a floss threader or an orthodontic flosser to make flossing a breeze. You can also add interdental picks to your oral hygiene toolkit: this handy tool is like a toothpick with tiny bristles. It’s useful for dislodging bits of food from your braces and from in between your teeth. Plus, they’re easy to carry with you when you’re on-the-go for convenient flossing and cleaning.
- Add a Waterpik® to your oral care routine
A water flosser like a Waterpik® takes your oral hygiene to the next level. Consider adding it to your brushing and flossing routine. One study shows that participants using a Waterpik® water flosser as part of their oral hygiene routine experienced an almost 75% reduction in overall plaque versus those who only included traditional dental floss.
- Finish with a fluoride mouthwash
If you tend towards cavities and tooth decay, a non-whitening fluoride mouthwash can be super effective in getting rid of plaque and food debris you might have missed when flossing and brushing. A fluoride mouth rinse also strengthens and remineralizes your enamel, which helps protect against cavities and white spots.
8. Keep Up with Your Dental Check-Ups
Staying on top of your twice yearly dental check-ups is just as important as making it to all your orthodontic appointments. As you’ve most likely gathered from the tips above, your dental health plays a big role in how to keep your teeth white when wearing braces. Your dentist can catch any cavities or dental health issues that might result in less-than-pearly-white teeth or that can possibly affect orthodontic treatment. Some severe cases might require taking braces off, which can interrupt tooth movements and extend treatment time.
Dental check-ups are also when your teeth get a deep-down, professional cleaning for a brighter, whiter smile. Your dental hygienist uses special tools to remove hardened plaque that your at-home oral hygiene routine has missed. Hygienists are also skilled at polishing your teeth to remove surface stains and smooth your enamel, revealing a brighter smile. A professional polish helps stop future plaque build up and fights off discoloration.
A Sparkling, Spectacular Smile With Okuda Orthodontics
At Okuda Orthodontics, we’re all about designing dream smiles our patients are super proud to show off! If you’re ready to start perfecting your smile, contact us today for a free initial consultation. We’d be happy to chat with you virtually or in-person at our welcoming office in Henderson, Nevada.