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Teeth Whitening and Braces

Jan 6, 2013
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Last Updated 1/6/2013 - Can I whiten my teeth while I wear braces?" is a question we hear quite frequently at There isn't a single answer though. Whether or not to whiten your teeth while you're undergoing orthodontic treatment involves several variable factors and the answers aren't the same for everyone. What we can do to help you is this–tell you what variables you need be concerned with and then advise that you take your list to your dentist and orthodontist for a professional opinion.

So, here are the things you need to consider:

  • Type of braces: removable or permanent
  • Age
  • Sensitivity
  • Oral Health and Hygiene Habits
  • Strength of Whitening Method


One of the main things to consider is the type of whitening method you’d like to use. Intrinsic whitening works underneath the surface of the tooth to whiten the dentin beneath the enamel. This is the kind of whitening you’ll find in strips, mouth tray whitening kits and one-hour office whitening services. It uses either very strong carbamide peroxide or active hydrogen peroxide and often requires multi-day applications.

Extrinsic whitening involves the removal of surface stains from teeth. Instead of using very strong peroxide formulas, these types of whitening products typically utilize an abrasive agent and/or a mild peroxide.


  • Removable Acrylic (or “invisible”) Braces
  • Permanent Metal, Acrylic or Ceramic Brackets worn on fronts and backs of teeth.
  • Permanent Metal, Acrylic or Ceramic Brackets worn on backs of teeth only.

If you wear removable braces, it may be possible to use some kind of teeth whitening, at the very least, you can use a mild whitening toothpaste or rinse. But wearing removable braces OVER whitening products isn't recommended without your orthodontist’s permission.

If you wear metal brackets - mounted front and back or back-only - you'll need to wait until they’re removed before you whiten. Whitening will change the color of the visible tooth, but won’t whiten the parts covered by glue and brackets, so when the braces come off, you'll have two-toned teeth. The official term for this is "technicolor teeth" Also, whitening may actually damage the metal in your braces. If you wear permanent ceramic or acrylic brackets mounted front and back, you'll still wind up with two-color teeth even if the whitening product won't hurt the bracket material. And it may be difficult to make your teeth the same color again.

Wearing permanent ceramic or acrylic brackets mounted on the back only? You may be able to use a whitening product with your orthodontist's permission.


Are you under 16? No whitening method is routinely recommended. Your teeth are still maturing and any kind of whitening can have an effect on tooth enamel. Your dentist AND orthodontist need to agree in those cases where whitening is permitted.


If you have noticeably sensitive teeth and gums, whitening your teeth while wearing braces can be even more uncomfortable. Whether you're wearing removable or permanent braces bracketed on the backs only, your orthodontist may permit the use of milder whitening products, such as toothpastes or brush-ons, but you’ll have to check first.


People get braces for all sorts of reasons and one of those reasons is to make the teeth easier to take care of. Braces even-up spaces in-between teeth: closing gaps, opening spaces for flossing and making it harder for plaque and bacteria to grow.

If you're in perfect oral health when you receive your braces, the chance that your orthodontist will approve of some kind of whitening treatment improves. Teeth become harder to take care of when wearing braces, so dental professionals take every caution not to create additional impediments to oral hygiene


Both instrinsic and extrinsic teeth whitening treatments come in a variety of strengths: from an every-day whitening toothpaste to whitening rinses to whitestrips to full-mouth whitening at the dentist's office. It's the amount of carbamide peroxide used in each formula that determines a products speed and effectiveness - and also increases its ability to create sensitivity.

It's only common sense that the strongest teeth whitening methods should not be used while you're wearing braces of any kind. But which of the milder formulas may work for you?

  • Everyday whitening toothpastes
  • Touch-up pens and brush-ons
  • Whitening rinses

Talk to your orthodontist and ask how you can take care of your teeth - and your appearance - while you're wearing braces. And, most importantly, keep focused on how terrific you're going to look when the braces come off. That's enough to brighten your smile!

Reviewed by Dr. Alan Zweig
Dr. Alan Zweig runs a private dental practice in Beverly Hills, CA. With over 30 years of experience in cosmetic dentistry, Dr. Alan Zweig is a teeth whitening veteran. He’s been trusted by major celebrities, business leaders, and patients from over six different continents.

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