When you start the process of straightening your teeth with orthodontic treatment, it’s only natural to want to make sure your smile is as healthy and bright as possible when your braces come off. That’s why one of the things many of our Greer and Simpsonville, SC braces patients are curious about is teeth whitening. Dr. Buddy and the Davis Orthodontics team are all about creating dream smiles, so we offer free gel teeth whitening to all of our patients when they’re finished with their treatment. Unfortunately, while your braces are on, we don’t recommend undergoing any whitening treatments, professional or at home, which we’ll get to in a second. Instead, keeping teeth white with braces is a matter of developing a really great oral hygiene routine. There are plenty of products that can make it easier too and we’re sharing some of our favorites.
But, First, the Scoop on Teeth Whitening With Braces
The reason you shouldn’t use whitening products with braces is because the braces brackets are bonded to your teeth. The solution will only lighten the areas that are exposed and not the ones that are covered by your brackets, leaving you with a two-toned smile when you finish treatment. Additionally, whitening products increase tooth sensitivity for some people, which isn’t ideal when we’re shifting your teeth into place. We know activated charcoal teeth whitening products are all the rage and even though these don’t make teeth more sensitive, you’ll probably get the same uneven results, so hold off while you’re wearing braces. If you’re one of our Simpsonville or Greer Invisalign patients, you’re free to whiten (unless you have attachments), since your aligners are removable.
This doesn’t mean there isn’t anything braces wearers can do to maintain a bright smile. Brushing after after every meal, flossing at least once a day, using a fluoride mouth rinse if you’re prone to cavities and seeing your regular dentist for checkups and cleanings will go a long way in keeping your teeth white with braces. If you’re concerned about the color of your teeth, try to avoid food and drinks that stain them like coffee, tea and red wine.
Our Favorite Products for Keeping Teeth White With Braces
Now, on to the products that can help keep your teeth healthy, white and squeaky clean during your orthodontic treatment:
1. A Good Toothbrush
There’s a whole manual toothbrush versus electric toothbrush debate. We do tend to prefer electric toothbrushes for brushing with braces because plaque has more places to set up shop when you have brackets or wires in your mouth. An electric toothbrush can be a bit more efficient in keeping plaque at bay. However, if you really love manual toothbrushes, there’s nothing wrong with using one during your treatment. There are even special orthodontic brushes that have v-shaped bristles to better maneuver around brackets. Whichever option you choose, stick with something that’s ADA approved and that doesn’t have hard bristles, which can damage enamel and irritate gums.
Do you know what’s more important than the type of toothbrush you use? Brushing for a full two minutes during every session and giving each individual tooth attention. Brushing with braces takes a little practice. We’ll show you exactly how to do it when we put your braces on, so you feel confident in your technique. Brush in the morning, before bed and after every meal and snack. By doing this, you’ll ward off cavities and gum disease and remove surface stains, so your teeth stay whiter during your treatment.
2. Orthodontic Flossers or Floss Threaders
You can certainly use regular dental floss when you’re wearing braces but orthodontic flossers and floss threaders make life easier. Brands like Platypus make orthodontic flossers designed specifically to work with braces and a floss threader threads the floss under your appliance, hence the name. Flossing once a day, preferably before bed, will clean the areas between your teeth that your toothbrush can’t reach, which is where a lot of cavities start. Flossing is important for maintaining good oral health but by eliminating plaque or debris between your teeth, it will also help make your smile look brighter and healthier. When flossing, go up and down the side of one tooth and then up the side of the adjacent tooth before moving on to the next pair of teeth. Don’t’ forget to floss the outside of your back molars too.
3. A Non-Whitening, Fluoride Toothpaste
The best toothpaste for braces is one that’s non-abrasive and doesn’t contain whitening ingredients. Just as with any whitening treatment, using whitening toothpaste with braces will mean only the visible areas of your teeth are addressed. When your braces come off, your teeth will have darker spots where the brackets were. While the toothpaste aisle has an overwhelming number of choices, a regular, fluoride toothpaste will do the trick. Fluoride is a natural mineral that will keep your enamel strong and help prevent cavities, so it’s an important ingredient to look for. Find a toothpaste with the ADA seal of approval that tastes good to you and stick with it to remove surface stains and keep teeth healthy.
4. Interproximal Brush
An interproximal brush, or interdental brush, looks like a tiny wand and it’s meant to fit into small spaces like around your brackets, underneath your wires and even between teeth. These little brushes are amazing tools for braces wearers. You can really get in the nooks and crannies to ensure your smile is sparkling clean. They’re also a good thing to bring when you’re on-the-go because they can dislodge food that’s stuck in your braces. Sizing is important. A brush that’s too big can hurt your gums if you try to force it into a small space and one that’s too little, won’t be that effective.
5. A Water Flosser
A Waterpik or other water flosser is excellent for achieving that really, really clean feeling when you have braces and for knocking pieces of food loose. It’s also another tool that gets into hard-to-reach places, as well as around your gum line. Using a water flosser with braces is perfectly fine. However, it’s not a substitute for regular flossing. You’ll still need to floss once a day. The water flosser is a helpful addition and while it’s nice to have, it’s not a requirement for orthodontic patients, so you don’t have to run out and buy one.
6. A Fluoride Mouthwash
When you’re wearing braces, you can be at a higher risk for cavities because they trap food and plaque. Wrapping up your oral hygiene routine with a fluoride mouthwash is a good way to add some extra protection. As a bonus, it will also freshen your breath. Avoid whitening mouthwashes. We like Crest Pro-Health Rinse, ACT Anticavity Fluoride Rinse and Listerine mouthwashes. Alcohol in mouthwashes can cause dry mouth, which creates an environment where bacteria and plaque thrive, so go for a product that doesn’t contain alcohol.