The orthodontic braces attached to your teeth are necessary to align your bite and to improve its functionality. They'll also improve the appearance of your teeth, and with this in mind, you might be tempted to multitask—to undergo other procedures that will benefit the look of your smile, such as teeth whitening. But is it even possible to whiten your teeth when you have braces?
Whitening at Home
At-home teeth whitening kits can be problematic with braces. The basic principle of these kits is to apply a whitening gel (containing hydrogen peroxide) to an applicator tray, which is then slotted over your teeth. The presence of your braces makes this somewhat clumsy. The active whitening ingredient will not be applied evenly to your teeth, so any results will be patchy at best. While the whitening gel is unlikely to oxidise or otherwise corrode the metalwork of your braces, the abrasive effects of the gel can theoretically cause some damage, if used excessively. Whitening kits don't tend to be compatible with braces.
For whitening at home, your best bet is to use whitening toothpaste. Although some brands will contain a bleaching agent, many of them instead rely on less intensive, non-abrasive active ingredients, such as baking soda. Whitening toothpaste can also contain ultra-fine granules to exfoliate superficial stains from your dental enamel. But while a whitening toothpaste won't interfere with the progress of your orthodontic work, it's not going to deliver the same results as a dedicated whitening (bleaching) treatment.
At the Dentist
Anyone who requires teeth whitening during their orthodontic treatment should see their dentist. A dentist can whiten teeth with the utmost precision, taking the physical presence of your braces into consideration—whitening dental enamel around the braces' metal brackets, without damaging the brackets. These results will be immediate, and can then be maintained at home with whitening toothpaste. This approach comes with a disclaimer, in that when your braces are removed, you will likely have telltale square-shaped patches of dental enamel on your teeth that haven't been whitened. This is where the brackets of your braces were in contact with your teeth since it wasn't possible to whiten beneath these brackets. A dentist can whiten any areas of concern when your braces are finally removed.
It's usually a better choice to whiten your teeth before or after your orthodontic treatment. But if your whitening needs can't wait, it's certainly possible to whiten your teeth while your braces are still attached—with a little help from your dentist.
For more information on teeth whitening, contact a dentist near you.