The day a patient’s braces are removed is cause for celebration. However, many patients are excited to move to the next step – making sure their teeth are sparkling white once the braces come off. There are steps you can take when it comes to whitening teeth after braces and have a beautiful smile.
Yellow teeth after wearing braces are common, especially among patients that had less than stellar oral hygiene while wearing the braces. In other cases, patients may have natural intrinsic color variation that makes the color of their teeth uneven or off-white.
Although Burke & Redford Orthodontists reviews proper brushing and flossing procedures for our patients wearing braces, we know that these procedures aren’t always followed to the letter. Many patients find it challenging to properly clean their teeth while wearing braces.
In this article, we’ll discuss how to minimize teeth discoloration for our patients with braces. We’ll also look at when and how to whiten teeth after braces come off.
Why Braces Often Lead To Yellow Teeth
Wearing braces presents special challenges for proper brushing and flossing. It definitely takes more dedication and time, and many teens (and adults) rush through the process. As a result, teeth may become discolored.
Teeth become yellow (or get white spots) because of plaque and tartar accumulation. Plaque is a soft, sticky film composed of leftover food particles and the byproducts of bacteria in the mouth. When patients don’t brush adequately, it can build-up on teeth—contributing to tooth decay and gum disease.
When sugars and plaque combine, the process creates acids that can remove minerals from the teeth. This changes the way that teeth reflect light—sometimes producing white spots.
If plaque is not removed quickly, it starts to harden and becomes tartar. Tartar is a crusty deposit that causes yellow stains on teeth. Once tartar accumulates, it becomes more difficult to remove plaque—thereby causing more tartar. Only dental professionals can remove tartar.
The best method for preventing plaque and tartar is to brush and floss three times a day. For patients with braces, this may require using special flossing tools to remove plaque and food build-up between teeth and brackets.
Brushing and Flossing While Wearing Braces
Properly brushing and flossing while wearing braces will help to reduce the formation of plaque and tartar—thereby minimizing yellow teeth and the formation of white spots. Here is a brief refresher to follow these teeth whitening after braces steps listed below.
• Use the Right Tools. An electric toothbrush can help ensure proper brushing because the toothbrush automatically goes in two directions and keeps track of how long the patient has been brushing. Investing in a water flosser is also helpful as it can flush plaque and other debris away from orthodontic devices. Floss is critical to cleaning between the contacts between the teeth. Using a proxabrush (interdental toothbrush) to get underneath wires and around brackets is also important for patients with braces. Finally, use fluoride toothpaste—not a whitening toothpaste. Trying to whiten teeth while wearing braces will result in uneven coverage.
• Brush Thoroughly At Least Three Times A Day. For best results, patients should brush after every meal. The key is to cover each area of the mouth—above the braces, the brackets themselves, below the braces, the biting surfaces, and the backs of the teeth and most importantly – along the gum line. Although this process may take 3 to 5 minutes, it will ensure the job is done properly. Rinsing with water before brushing also helps to remove food particles.
• Rinse With Mouthwash After Brushing. For patients with braces, rinsing with an antiseptic mouthwash is recommended. Not only does this help wash away food particles, but it can also help with minor irritations caused by braces.
• Floss Thoroughly. Flossing removes build-up between teeth that may not be removed by brushing. While water flossers are helpful at clearing away debris, they do not clean the contacts between teeth as well as traditional floss, so both are advised. A proxabrush should be used to access hard-to-reach areas.
Avoid Foods That Stain Teeth
Certain foods are more apt to stain teeth than others. Avoiding or limiting these foods can go a long way to create a healthier mouth environment and minimizing yellow teeth.
• Tea, coffee, soda, wine, and dark juices can stain teeth and erode teeth enamel, which can lead to discoloration.
• Starchy, sugary, or acidic foods (e.g., pickles, cranberries, tomato sauce) promote bacteria breakdown, which can demineralize teeth. Enjoy these foods in moderation. Of course, patients with braces must also avoid sticky and chewy food (such as licorice, caramel, taffy, and marshmallow) that can get stuck in brackets and wires.
The best foods for teeth include fresh fruit, veggies (especially leafy greens), yogurt, and cheese. Although carrots and apples are great for teeth, patients with braces must be careful when eating hard foods that can break brackets.
Whitening Teeth After Braces
Despite a patient’s best efforts, their teeth may still be yellow after braces are removed. The good news is that teeth whitening can help solve the problem. However, patients should wait a few months before attempting to whiten their teeth.
There are several reasons why patients with braces should wait before whitening their teeth. First, the environment in the mouth (interaction between good and bad bacteria) changes after braces are removed. Waiting a few months gives the teeth and mouth time to adjust and equilibrate. Second, many patients find that their saliva and normal oral care will remove much of the discoloration on its own.
However, if patients are still unhappy with the color of their teeth after the braces have been off for a few months, the best option is to undergo teeth whitening by a dental professional. Treatment in a dental office uses a professional-grade solution and (in some cases) ultra-violet light to whiten teeth to the desired shade. Treatment can take anywhere from 20 to 60 minutes when done in office, or over several weeks when done at home.
Patients who opt for at-home treatments can choose from a wide array of whitening toothpastes, strips, or gels. Results may vary depending on the patient and the level of staining. However, whitening with custom made trays from a dental professional in conjunction with whitening gels is generally most effective.
With a little patience, good oral hygiene practices, and the use of teeth whitening procedures, our patients with braces will soon have sparkling white teeth to go with their beautiful new smiles.
Burke & Redford Orthodontists has been treating children and teens for over 30 years in Riverside County, California. Schedule a Free Consultation with our doctors by calling (951) 699-8011 during business hours or through our website anytime.