Tooth Whitening after Braces

Tooth Whitening after Braces
Posted on 05/12/2016





What's the first thing people want to do when their braces come off? According to an ArchWired Reader poll earlier this year, they want to get their teeth whitened! After all, you've done your time in braces, and now you want that dazzling, perfect movie star smile.

You deserve it!

We all want that Hollywood smile with big, white and shinny teeth. But most of us live in the real world filled with teeth staining items like coffee, tea, soda and other tooth staining substances. So what do we normal folks do to get that Hollywood smile? Having a beautiful smile may be even easier than you think. Many people achieve the look they’ve been dreaming of with a simple whitening procedure. In this month’s blog We will cover how teeth whitening works, when to bleach, the available options, and tooth sensitivity.


When it comes to color, everyone's teeth are different. While bright and white might be what most people want for their teeth, the reality is that many people have yellowish, gray or brown teeth. Discolored teeth are often attributable to poor oral health or to bad habits such as smoking. It makes sense that many people want their teeth to be whiter. If surface stains are contributing to your teeth's discoloration, you can try using a teeth whitening toothpaste to improve your teeth's appearance.


What's in Whitening Toothpastes

Regular, non-whitening toothpastes are designed to help remove some surface stains as they clean teeth and improve the health of your mouth. Whitening toothpastes help make your smile brighter by removing even more surface stains. These toothpastes typically contain more abrasive ingredients, such as silica, which scrub the surface of the teeth. Look for a whitening toothpaste that has earned a seal of approval from the American Dental Association.


Getting the Most from Your Toothpaste

After you start using a whitening toothpaste, it can take several weeks for you to see results. Keep in mind that, because a whitening toothpaste doesn't change the actual color of your teeth, you can undo the results by continuing habits that contribute to stains on the teeth.

If you continue to drink coffee and red wine, you might not see the results you had expected from the toothpaste. The same is true if you're a smoker or use smokeless tobacco products. Even healthy foods, such as beets and blueberries, can darken your teeth. Instead of avoiding healthy foods in the pursuit of whiter teeth, simply remember to brush after eating and to drink plenty of water during your meal to rinse your mouth.


Other Whitening Options

Teeth whitening toothpastes won't give you dramatic, bright white results unless you naturally have very white teeth. If you want to actually whiten your teeth, you might consider bleaching them. See your dentist for a professional teeth whitening treatment, which typically involves the use of bleach and a special light. You can also use an at-home whitening product, such as a whitening pen, to bleach your teeth. Talk to your dentist before you use any whitening product, especially if you have a history of sensitive teeth or gums.

Remember that results will vary when you use whitening toothpastes and other whitening products. For example, you might not be able to get a perfectly white or whitish smile if you have gray teeth. Whitening treatments also won't change the color of fillings, veneers or crowns. If you decide to use a teeth whitening toothpaste, use it as directed, and remember to brush at least twice per day and floss for the overall health of your teeth and gums.


How does teeth whitening (bleaching) work?

To understand how teeth whitening works, one has to understand how teeth become discolored. There are two types of discoloration: extrinsic and intrinsic. Your normal teeth brushing with whitening toothpaste will help remove the daily extrinsic stains (think surface staining) left from coffee, tea etc. Intrinsic (below the enamel) staining is caused by years of exposure to these staining substances and is harder to change. Teeth whitening will unfortunately not work on any teeth with dental bonding or crowns.


So how do teeth whitening agents get the stains out from “inside” your tooth? Most whitening gels (or sometimes called bleaching agents) contain an oxidizing agent in the form of carbamide peroxide or hydrogen peroxide. These ingredients are the active ingredient in most whitening agents. The gel reacts with the internal aspect of your tooth, mixes with the discolored areas, and breaks them apart making them appear whiter! 


When to whiten?

After your braces have been removed it is a good idea to wait at least a month before any sort of bleaching or whitening treatment. This will give the newly exposed enamel time to become less sensitive.

If you are having other dental work done to your front teeth, such as bonding, veneers or implants-  you would typically bleach first, then once you reach your desired shade, wait one week to allow the color to stabilize before having dental work done. Have a wedding coming up? Whiten at least one month before the big day!


What are my teeth whitening options?

Make sure you talk with your dental professional to see what’s best for you, but here are your teeth whitening options:

Professional take home trays – Pros: Works for long term results, accurate to your teeth, decreased sensitivity, convenient.  Cons: more expensive than over the counter

White Strips – Pros: Cheap, can whiten a few shades Cons: misses areas between and around teeth, gets on gums, not as effective as professional take home trays

In office bleaching – Pros: Quick results Cons: Not as effective long term, sensitivity issues, lights and lasers not that affective in “whiter teeth,” expensive


My teeth are sensitive when I bleach!

If your teeth are sensitive during bleaching there may be an underlying cause, so as always, talk with your dental professional. If you have traditionally had sensitive teeth, use a desensitizing toothpaste containing potassium nitrate (Sensodyne, Crest Sensi relief, etc.) for at least one month before whitening. Also tell your dentist if you are having sensitivity, as he or she may be able to lower the percentage concentration of the whitening product. 

If you want whiter teeth, know that you have many options. There is no one best option for all.  

If you want even more information about tooth whitening, visit the website of the American Dental Association.

Now get out there and dazzle everyone

with your straight white smile!