The day your braces come off is one of the most exciting days of your life, regardless of when you got them on. Yet having undergone incredible patience (and expense) to straighten your smile, seeing the process has left you with stained teeth can be very upsetting. Take heart in learning there are several ways to prevent this discoloration while wearing braces, and just as many opportunities to whiten your teeth evenly once they come off.
It's Often Not the Braces
Your teeth can become stained during orthodontic treatment for several reasons, which is why some braces-wearers develop this problem while others don't. Traditional braces have a complex design of brackets and wires that can trap food, leading to a buildup of bacteria that causes plaque to form. It's not the actual braces that cause these stains but the plaque that forms in crevices you can't easily get to.
Wearing braces makes it difficult to remove this plaque, allowing it to create acids that leach the minerals from your enamel. This demineralization changes the way the tooth surface reflects the light, resulting in the development of unsightly white spots in the areas that are difficult to reach. Plaque also increases your risk for tooth decay and gum disease while the braces are on.
How to Prevent Staining
It's essential to practice good dental hygiene at all times, but when you're wearing braces, the complete removal of this plaque is tough to do. Your best defense against stained teeth should include:
- Eliminating certain foods and drinks from your diet, such as sugary or starchy items, high acid fruit drinks and sodas.
- Brushing and flossing after every meal, using a toothpaste such as Colgate Total® Advanced Whitening to maintain color and attack the germs that ruin it at the same time. To make this easier to manage, ground your diet to three meals a day and only brush 30 minutes after any given dish. This gives your enamel time to settle and your saliva time to wash away the acids left by the food.
- Regular dental cleanings help to remove tartar that you can't eliminate on your own during daily brushing and flossing.
For patients who find they are particularly prone to plaque developing on the biting surfaces of teeth, applying a sealant before braces go on can provide added protection. Talk to the orthodontist to see if this would be practical for you.
How to Whiten after the Fact
When your treatment is over and the braces are removed, some dental professionals recommend waiting six months before taking any steps to correct stained teeth. Often your saliva will be enough to reduce the intensity of these marks once it reaches the tooth surfaces that were originally covered by braces. After enough time has passed, however, you can use over-the-counter (OTC) tooth-whitening products. Professional whitening processes such as in-office bleaching can help to provide a more even result, and after one or two treatments you should find mild stains disappear completely.
Protecting yourself from the presence of plaque in the first place is the most effective way to avoid stained teeth from braces, and optimize good oral health.