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What Causes Braces Stains? 10 Ways to Avoid Them

By January 12, 2021April 12th, 2022Blog, Orthodontics

When thinking about braces transformations, images of stained teeth probably don’t come to mind. While, of course, the ideal outcome is straight, white teeth, stains or white spots after braces can happen. The good news is, braces stains are preventable. We always fill our Surrey, Langley and Abbotsford braces patients in on how to take care of braces and their smile in order to keep discoloration at bay. If you need a refresher or just want to get a better idea of what causes braces stains and how to avoid them, read on to learn more. 

The Causes of Stains on Teeth After Braces

There are different causes of stains on teeth after braces and the cause will determine what the stains look like. Some common causes of braces stains include:

1. Tooth Decalcification

White spots on teeth after braces are commonly the result of decalcification. There is a natural give and take in your mouth between the remineralization and demineralization processes. When you eat, the bacteria in the mouth feed on the sugars and starches, releasing acids that demineralize the tooth enamel. 

Your saliva contains minerals, such as calcium and phosphorus, that neutralize the acids and deposit the lost minerals back in the enamel, which is known as remineralization. If something disrupts the remineralization process, decalcification, which presents as white spots on teeth, occurs. These white spots are often actually very early tooth decay. 

Tooth decalcification, or white spots on teeth, can be due to excessive fluoride intake, which leads to fluorosis, certain medications, an overgrowth of bacteria in the mouth, and even a diet that’s low in calcium. 

You can also get white spots on teeth after braces treatment if you don’t practice good oral hygiene or your mouth is very acidic, as both can result in the enamel losing minerals. Since plaque, food debris, and bacteria tend to build up around the brackets, thorough brushing and flossing is a must for preventing tooth decalcification. In mild cases, decalcification after braces will barely be noticeable, while in severe cases, you can have evident white spots around where your brackets were glued to the teeth. 

2. Tooth Decay

As we said, very early cavities, or decalcification, can appear as white spots on teeth after your braces are removed. However, more advanced cavities may present as brown or black spots on the teeth. It is harder to brush and floss effectively around your braces brackets and wires, which puts you at a higher risk for tooth decay if you don’t maintain outstanding oral hygiene. In fact, most causes of braces stains are related to poor oral hygiene.

3. Whitening Teeth With Braces On

Can you whiten teeth with braces? We get this question sometimes from our Langley, Surrey and Abbotsford braces patients and the answer is, no, you shouldn’t whiten teeth with braces on. Your brackets are bonded to your teeth and there is a tight seal, so the whitening product will only whiten the exposed parts of your teeth and won’t penetrate beneath your brackets. You’ll either be left with stained teeth after your braces come off or at least slightly two-toned teeth, depending on the teeth whitening solution you use. Even using whitening toothpaste with braces can result in discoloration. 

While this post is mainly about braces stains, you should also avoid whitening teeth during Invisalign® treatment if you have Invisalign attachments. These tooth-colored buttons are bonded to the teeth and you’ll get similar uneven results when they’re removed as you would with braces. 

4. Foods and Beverages

Frequently drinking beverages or eating foods that stain teeth like coffee, red wine, tomato sauce, balsamic vinegar, beets and certain spices can also lead to stained teeth after braces treatment. Again, the exposed parts of your teeth will get discolored while the portions of your teeth that are covered by your brackets won’t. 

Eating or drinking a lot of acidic foods and drinks is another culprit. In addition to the acidic foods themselves, an acidic oral environment can happen if you snack frequently or slowly sip drinks since the pH in the mouth doesn’t have a chance to return to normal and teeth are exposed to constant acid attacks from the bacteria in plaque. This may result in decalcification of teeth, as well as general enamel erosion, making teeth look yellow. 

Because acid weakens enamel, if you brush your teeth right after enjoying something acidic, it can further damage the enamel, hastening discoloration that could lead you to think you have stained teeth from braces. Acid interacts with other substances too, such as cigarette smoke, causing yellow or brown stains.

5. Nicotine

Smoking cigarettes or using smokeless tobacco products, like chewing tobacco or snuff, are major causes of stained teeth after braces (and even if you never had braces!). Just as with anything else that stains teeth, the parts of your teeth that are beneath your brackets may not become as discolored as the exposed areas of your teeth. This can cause lighter spots after braces where your brackets were. 

10 Ways to Prevent Stains and White Spots on Teeth After Braces

1. Practice Good Oral Hygiene 

The number one way to avoid braces stains, especially white spots on teeth after braces or discoloration from tooth decay, is to practice good oral hygiene and follow your orthodontist’s instructions for how to take care of braces. As we tell our patients, brush your teeth after meals and snacks using a non-whitening, fluoride toothpaste. Floss with braces one daily. A floss threader or special orthodontic flosser can be helpful and make it easier to get under your wires.

2. Rinse Your Mouth if You Forget Your Toothbrush 

If you’re out and about and forget to bring your toothbrush, rinse your mouth out really well with water after eating or drinking, and brush your teeth as soon as you get home. This will help prevent food debris and plaque from accumulating around your brackets and in between your teeth and reduce the likelihood of developing teeth stains from braces. 

3. Stay Away from Sticky Foods

When teaching our Langley, Surrey and Abbotsford braces patients how to take care of braces, we tell them to avoid really hard, chewy or sticky foods since they can damage their appliance. However, aside from potentially breaking your brackets or causing a braces wire to pop out, sticky foods will get stuck in all of the extra nooks and crannies of your braces. They’re harder to clean off and you aren’t able to remove them completely, which can lead to discoloration and even cavities. 

4. Enjoy Sugar and Starches in Moderation

Since the bacteria in the mouth love sugars and starches, these types of foods increase your risk of tooth decay. Minimizing the amount of starchy foods and sugary drinks and foods you have can go a long way in keeping your smile healthy and preventing stains and white spots on teeth after braces. 

5. Limit Foods and Drinks that Stain Teeth 

Have foods and drinks that are notorious for staining teeth (we’re looking at you, coffee) in moderation. While not all of these foods are necessarily bad for teeth, they can lead to tooth discoloration after braces when your brackets are removed. 

6. Watch Those Acidic Foods and Beverages

Having acidic foods and drinks in moderation is another way to avoid braces spots and stains. Things that are acidic will weaken your enamel and make it more susceptible to decalcification, damage and decay. If you do have something acidic, rinse your mouth after and wait about 30 minutes to an hour to brush your teeth when the pH balance in your mouth has had a chance to return to normal. This will ensure you don’t accidentally cause more damage to your enamel while it’s in a weakened state from the acids. 

7. Quit Smoking or Chewing Tobacco

Quitting smoking or using tobacco products won’t just improve your overall health, it will also boost your oral health and prevent teeth stains. 

8. Wait Until After Your Braces Come Off to Whiten Your Teeth

Because, as noted earlier, whitening your teeth with braces will lead to two-toned results or give the appearance of stained teeth, wait until your treatment is over before you whiten. Also be sure to avoid using whitening toothpaste, as this too can result in discoloration. 

9. See Your General Dentist Regularly for Cleanings

When you have braces, regular dental visits are more important than ever. During professional cleanings, the dental assistant uses specialized tools to remove hardened plaque from the teeth that can’t be eliminated with a toothbrush at home, as well as surface stains from the enamel. Visiting your general dentist for an exam and cleaning twice a year, or as often as they recommend, will ensure your oral health stays in top-notch shape and allow you to avoid braces stains. 

10. Invest in a Few Extra Oral Hygiene Tools

To keep your teeth extra clean during treatment and prevent stains or white spots from braces, use an interproximal brush, also called a proxy brush or interdental brush, to clean those tight spaces around your brackets, in addition to your regular toothbrush. These tiny brushes are amazing for getting rid of hard-to-reach plaque and any bits of food that are stuck in your braces. 

A waterpik for braces is another excellent addition to your teeth cleaning arsenal. A waterpik, or water flosser, is good for dislodging food and keeping your gums and brackets squeaky clean. A waterpik won’t replace regular flossing and you’ll still have to floss once daily even if you do use a water flosser. However, it’s still a favorite among our patients. 

How to Get Rid of Braces Stains

If you’re wondering how to get rid of braces stains, that probably means you’ve already had your braces taken off and it’s too late to use our tips for preventing discoloration. So, are stains or white spots from braces permanent? Not usually. In most cases, the stains or white spots can either be removed or, at the very least, masked. While exactly how to get rid of braces stains will depend on the type of stain and its cause, here are a few ways they’re commonly remedied:

1. Try Teeth Whitening

If you have stained teeth after braces, sometimes, a teeth whitening treatment can be effective for whitening your teeth and helping to blend in any uneven spots. At-home treatments may work but professional teeth whitening will get teeth a lot whiter and reduce or eliminate braces stains.

2. Get a Professional Cleaning

For surface stains or braces stains caused by hardened plaque, or tartar, a professional cleaning and tooth scaling at your dentist’s office will remove them and help teeth look whiter and healthier. 

3. Use Whitening Toothpaste and Mouthwashes With Fluoride

For mild braces spots, using a whitening toothpaste and mouthwash can lighten the discoloration and get rid of surface stains. If you have white spots from braces, the fluoride will also help remineralize areas of decalcification and if they’re not severe, lessen their appearance. 

4. Ask for a Topical Fluoride Treatment

A topical fluoride treatment from your dentist will have a higher concentration of fluoride than over-the-counter fluoride toothpaste or mouthwash. Depending on the severity, this could strengthen the areas of tooth decalcification and be a good way to get rid of white spots on teeth after braces. 

5. Additional Dental Treatments

Your dentist may need to consider other treatments to get rid of white spots from braces or stains caused by an oral health concern like a cavity. For more severe white spots on teeth after braces that don’t respond to other methods, there are options, including enamel microabrasion, where some enamel is removed and the teeth are bleached, or a newer treatment known as the ICON infiltration technique, where a resin is injected into the decalcified areas to stop or reverse the decay and make the white spots blend in with the healthy enamel. Cosmetic bonding is another affordable way to mask braces stains and give teeth a uniform appearance. Lastly, dental veneers are an option too though they are more expensive and invasive. 

When it comes to braces stains, whether darker discoloration or white spots on teeth, prevention is your best bet. Practicing good oral hygiene during your treatment is hands-down the most effective way to ward off stains. The good news is, if you do end up with teeth stains after braces, there are things you can do to eliminate them or reduce their appearance. 

When you visit Aura Orthodontics for braces in Abbotsford, Langley or Surrey, we’ll make sure you’re well versed on everything you need to know about how to take care of braces, your teeth and your gums, so when your appliance comes off, you have straight, white teeth to show for it. To find out more about your teeth-straightening options, schedule a consultation at Aura Orthodontics today!