How to Whiten Teeth with Braces?

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Keeping teeth clean while undergoing an orthodontic treatment plan can be challenging, so many patients with braces consider special whitening methods. Knowing how to whiten teeth with braces isn't impossible, but special caution should be taken to avoid damaging the braces in the process.

The most common orthodontic treatments are metal brackets on the front of the teeth, and metal brackets on the back of the teeth. Here are some of the best methods for teeth whitening recommended by the American Dental Association (ADA) Mouth Healthy site, and how to approach whitening with any of these braces.

In-Office Bleaching

This procedure is often called "chairside bleaching," and usually requires only one or two office visits. A strong bleaching agent is applied to the teeth, along with a special light to accelerate the effect, depending on the case.

Given the strength of in-office bleaching, patients may notice a two-tone effect after traditional metal brackets are removed, in which the color of exposed parts of your teeth are whiter than those that were covered up. Therefore, this procedure may show a prettier result if done after your braces are taken off. Since it is not necessary to whiten the teeth's back (lingual) surfaces, however, in-office bleaching should be relatively easy if you have braces on the back of your teeth.

At-Home Bleaching

Similar to in-office treatment, this bleaching material typically comes in a gel and is placed in a tray that looks like an athletic mouthguard. The product uses peroxide to bleach the tooth enamel.

If you have orthodontic brackets, the custom tray would have to be fabricated after these devices are placed, so that there is room in the tray for both the gel and the brackets – and so the gel doesn't dislodge the individual brackets from the teeth. However, some patients may feel mild side effects, including sensitivity or gum irritation from bleaching material leaking out of the tray. Others also report increased sensitivity during orthodontic treatment, especially as their teeth move and they undergo wire changes.

Whitening Toothpastes

All toothpastes help remove surface stain through the action of mild abrasives. Whitening toothpastes have enamel-strengthening fluoride, as well as special chemical or polishing agents that provide additional stain removal. Unlike bleaches, these products do not change the color of your teeth because they only remove surface stains. Nonetheless, there are several whitening toothpastes for you to choose from, such as Colgate Total Advanced Whitening, which removes 80% of surface stains to whiten teeth despite the presence of braces.

Because whitening toothpastes don't involve a special procedure, these products should not cause problems for patients wearing metal brackets – especially if the brackets are on the back of the teeth.

Learning how to whiten teeth with braces can take some effort at first, but it certainly is achievable with the right oral care products and a treatment that doesn't interfere with the process of a straighter smile.

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