Brace Yourself: To whiten or wait?

By: Terri Briseno

Brace Yourself: To whiten or wait?
Image: iStockphoto/4FR

About This Quiz

So wearing a few thousand dollars worth of orthodontics doesn't make you feel like you have a million dollar smile? Shocker. But maybe whitening your teeth will help build up your confidence until those braces come off? Think again. Unfortunately, that's only going to make things worse. Brush up on whitening while straightening tips and see how well your answers, ahem, align with the truth.
With advances in orthodontics, braces rarely need to be worn for more than a year.
fact
fiction
Even with technological advances, peoples' mouths still need a lot of time to change. While in some cases six months to a year is long enough, most often braces need a year to three years -- or more -- to complete their work.

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Ligatures and rubber bands are the same thing when it comes to braces.
fact
fiction
Both rubber bands and ligatures have elasticity, but ligatures wrap around individual brackets on teeth, helping to secure the wiring mechanisms in most traditional braces, while rubber bands are only used in some cases and on select teeth for achieving extra resistance in the mouth.

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Invisible braces are always removable.
fact
fiction
While many orthodontic appliances marketed as invisible are removable, those affixed to the backs of teeth with glue are also called invisible braces.

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Adults don’t need to wear braces as long as adolescents because older mouths and jaws are fully grown and settled.
fact
fiction
Older bites actually take more time to be moved and readjusted than younger ones that are still forming. An adult will likely wear braces longer than a youngster.

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Makers of tooth-whitening products don't usually market their products to people with braces.
fact
Many advise NOT whitening while wearing dental appliances and they state plainly that whiteners work on natural teeth only.
fiction

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Using light beams or laser whitening is one sure way to get whitening agents to penetrate the adhesives used for braces.
fact
fiction
Light hasn't shown to be useful in getting liquid whiteners through glue, and in fact, we're not sure if anyone is even trying to achieve this.

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Whitening teeth the same day braces come off does not work.
fact
fiction
It works, and it works well for some, but others have issues with sensitivity or spots. Some professionals recommend waiting to ensure that all of the glue from brace brackets has been completely removed from teeth and has worn off of surfaces so whitening will be even and not splotchy.

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Whitening strips don’t fit well over orthodontic appliances, so it is a good idea to leave them on teeth longer while wearing braces.
fact
fiction
If wearing bracketed braces, strips probably won’t adhere to teeth -- and you probably wouldn't want them to because the teeth beneath won't get whitened; they will remain as white or as stained as they were before getting braces.

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Whitening toothpastes aren’t strong enough to make a big difference in the shade of teeth, so using ultra-whitening pastes with braces is fine.
fact
fiction
Although some stains are not receptive to whitening toothpastes, many people have excellent results with store-bought whitening toothpastes and can see a very noticeable difference after using them for even a short time. So it's not advisable to use them while wearing braces because you could end up with two different shades of white on your teeth.

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Ceramic braces can be very close in color to natural teeth and they often stay that way.
fact
Most of the discoloration or staining that happens with ceramic braces is due to the porosity of the ligatures that wrap around the ceramic brackets. Light-colored ligatures take on food and drink colors if not rinsed and brushed often and thoroughly.
fiction

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A new whitening product, "Erase Brace Face," is marketed for whitening teeth after braces come off.
fact
fiction
No need for special, after-braces whitening products though the techniques may be different based on the patterns of staining and any sensitivity. Marketing unnecessary products, however, isn’t entirely unheard of.

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Removable orthodontic trays and appliances can be filled with pastes and gels and used for whitening.
fact
If a dentist or orthodontist gives the OK and the materials are acceptable, it can be done, though with care and restrictions on how long.
fiction

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According the American Dental Association (ADA), whitening products are mostly safe.
fact
Some products even receive the ADA Seal of Approval, though there are no ADA endorsements for using whitening products while wearing braces.
fiction

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Brushing vigorously with baking soda each day is a safe, effective way to keep teeth and braces from yellowing.
fact
fiction
It is not safe or recommended to overdo it with baking soda, and brushing should not be "vigorous" but instead should be gentle in order to keep gum tissues and tooth enamel healthy and in top shape.

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Using hydrogen peroxide for oral care while wearing braces can be a very good idea.
fact
If used in the right concentrations, usually in low ones so whitening isn't too dramatic and the peroxide isn't too irritating to gums and mouth tissues, hydrogen peroxide can be really helpful in fighting bacteria in the mouth and on appliances and brushes before, during and after orthodontic care.
fiction

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Eating strawberries is one of the worst things you can do when it comes to keeping teeth white while wearing braces.
fact
fiction
Strawberries are naturally effective teeth whiteners, though they can stain the ligatures around braces and even the teeth if you don’t rinse after eating or rubbing them on the tooth surface.

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For thousands of years, people have used tree barks and twigs for oral health and teeth whitening, and these natural chew sticks are a great natural alternative to whiteners while wearing orthodontic appliances.
fact
fiction
Although it is true that sticks and bark, such as those from the neem plant, have been used throughout history to keep mouths healthy, while wearing braces it's almost never a good idea to munch on hard or chewy substances. Working the teeth and jaw with tough foods or objects can undo the straightening and aligning work of the braces.

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Over-the-counter whiteners are not OK while wearing braces, but in-office whiteners applied by professionals in whitening centers or kiosks are fine.
fact
fiction
Whiteners of any kind are not a good idea when you're wearing braces, and we're pretty sure your dentist and orthodontist will agree they're not OK.

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It is fine to have a dentist whiten the exposed surfaces of your teeth with professional-strength products.
fact
fiction
Whiteners available in stores have about 10 to 15 percent carbamide peroxide for whitening and stronger, in-office products can have even more, up to about 35 percent, so it is not likely that a dental professional would recommend such drastic whitening while braces are covering portions of teeth. The results would be spotty, or rectangle and squared.

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Tooth color may be in the eye of the beholder.
fact
Often, the people wearing braces have such a constant realization of what's on their teeth that problems and imperfections are magnified. Others may simply see their smiles.
fiction

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