How to Whiten Your Teeth While Wearing Braces

Medically Reviewed by Robert Brennan on April 28, 2023
4 min read

Dental braces are often used to correct the alignment of your teeth. Many people notice their teeth aren’t correctly aligned when they try to take a smiling selfie photo, but the effect on your smile is far from being the only consequence of misaligned teeth. Misalignments in the teeth can also cause an overbite, TMJ, and other jaw issues. Wearing braces is a smart way to head those problems off before they begin.

There is one slight problem with braces, though. How exactly do you keep your teeth clean and white while wearing them?

Even if you intend to seek professional teeth whitening, you’ll still need to clean in and around your braces several times a day to the best of your ability. Your braces can be something of an obstruction, but it’s nothing a little diligence and elbow grease can’t help.

Rinsing Your Mouth

Give your mouth a thorough rinsing with water each time you eat or drink anything, especially anything sugary or acidic. Not only is it good for your teeth, but it also helps clean your braces and remove plaque-causing particles from them. Make a point of doing this even when you can’t brush right away.

Try An Interproximal Brush

Orthodontists recommend interproximal brushes, sometimes called “in-betweeners,” to target particles mixed in among your braces. They’re just maneuverable and small enough to reach areas a larger brush can’t.

Floss More Than Ever

You should always floss. You should floss more with braces. Target the archwires especially and use a floss threader to achieve extra detail.

In fact, and certainly if your goal is whitening, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to limit sugary and acidic foods entirely while you have braces. That will minimize as much as possible any discoloration that can occur and make it easier when you go to get your teeth whitened.

It’s no small problem. You’re still eating three square meals a day while using braces, but now the plaque and debris of that food could get easily snagged on their brackets and wires. Over time, that can damage or stain your teeth and gums. 

The usual rules of dental hygiene apply while using braces, but you probably won’t be able to brush your teeth evenly. Even if you clean your teeth as best as you can, there’ll still be a mismatch between the color of the teeth that aren’t covered by braces and the teeth that are.

If you want to actively whiten your teeth and improve your smile, the same problem remains. That’s why orthodontists have traditionally recommended that people who want to whiten their teeth delay the process until after their braces are removed. It was thought that bleaching agents used during intensive whitening would inevitably weaken the attachment of the braces to your teeth.

That’s no longer the case.

Over-the-Counter Whitening Products

While most people want a pearly white smile right now, think twice before buying an over-the-counter whitening product. Some of them, like whitening toothpastes, will at least be helpful, but the bleaching agents contained in some products can damage your teeth and gums if you’re not careful.

Assuming you’ve done what you can to keep your teeth clean and avoid discoloring, the next step is to simply ask your orthodontist about whitening treatments that can be used while you have braces. This will depend on the type of braces you have.‌ 

Safe Whitening Options Provided by Dentists

Dentists make use of powerful bleaching agents to whiten your teeth. They’re more expensive than over-the-counter solutions, but they’ve also been proven to actually work, and work well. They can be used before your braces are removed.

For example, two to three 40-minute bleaching sessions, using a 35% hydrogen peroxide solution, has been shown highly successful at whitening bracketed teeth. This is much more efficient than waiting to get your braces removed, since it lets you simultaneously align and whiten your teeth without sacrificing one or the other. That wasn’t necessarily the case in previous years.

The biggest issue to be aware of is that, even with professional whitening, there may be slight unevenness in the coloring of exposed and unexposed tooth enamel. It’s not a pronounced difference. The area under your brackets can be thoroughly whitened, just not to the same extent as the rest of your teeth. You’ll possibly want to schedule a second, touch-up whitening appointment after the braces are removed.