UNLESS YOU’RE CHANGING the color of your wooden furniture, stains typically aren’t good news, and they’re especially unwelcome on our teeth. Not much will mar the excitement of Braces Off Day like stains around where the brackets used to be. What causes stains on our teeth and how can we avoid it in orthodontics — specifically, while the braces are on?
How Do Teeth Become Stained?
It’s important to know that post-braces stains are not inevitable, and that it isn’t the braces themselves that stain the teeth. The reason braces stains are fairly common is that they make it harder to brush away plaque. There are so many little extra nooks and crannies where food particles and bacteria can hide that are difficult to reach with a toothbrush.
If plaque isn’t cleaned away, it can leave decalcified patches around the brackets. That means when the braces come off, the tooth surface where the brackets were is still the same color as before but it’s now surrounded by tooth surface with a bleached appearance. Plaque buildup also increases the risk of gum disease and tooth decay during orthodontic treatment.
Keeping Your Teeth Free of Stains
A good oral hygiene routine is the best defense against white spots and other stains. That means brushing thoroughly at least twice a day, flossing at least once a day, and keeping up with regular dental appointments. The hygienist will be able to clean away plaque and tartar that you couldn’t reach.
It also helps to avoid foods and drinks notorious for leaving stains, such as highly acidic drinks (like soda), coffee, dark teas, sugary treats like cookies and candy, and starchy snacks like chips. Each of these can either stain the teeth directly with the compounds they contain or they can stick to the teeth and contribute to the buildup of plaque.
Tobacco and alcohol are also big stain culprits that are worse for braces-wearers because the areas with brackets won’t be affected. We recommend steering clear, especially while the braces are on.
What Can Be Done About Stains?
It’s better to avoid post-braces stains if possible, but in case there is some discoloration, there are ways of treating it. We may not recommend immediate whitening treatments simply because some stains grow less prominent over time on their own. If they are still visible after a few months, over-the-counter whitening products or professional whitening sessions with a cosmetic dentist can produce a more uniform smile.
Bring Us Your Stain Concerns!
If you still have any questions about preventing stains during or removing stains after orthodontic treatment, we’d be happy to answer them. We want all of our patients to have the stain-free straight-smile outcome they’re hoping for!