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Braces Stains: Causes, Prevention and Solutions

By September 21, 2021July 6th, 2023No Comments
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Braces Stains: Causes, Prevention and Solutions

Braces are an excellent way to get straight teeth, an aligned bite and improved oral health. Of course, when you invest in orthodontic treatment, you’re expecting a fantastic smile at the end and you don’t want braces stains to get in the way of that. The good news is, there are simple ways to prevent stains and white spots on your teeth after braces. For those who have already finished treatment, there are also solutions that will diminish the appearance of stains after the fact. 

Our Naperville, IL orthodontists will cover:
  • What are braces stains?
  • What causes stained teeth after braces?
  • How to prevent stains and white spots on your teeth from braces
  • How to get rid of braces stains

What are Braces Stains?

While you can have stained teeth that look yellow or dull following orthodontic treatment, in general, stains show up as white spots on the teeth after your braces come off. These white spots are areas of decalcification and are actually very early tooth decay. You might also notice a tiny indentation or roughness to the enamel around the white spot. 

What Causes Stained Teeth After Braces?

Run of the mill staining where the teeth look yellowish or darker is usually caused by environmental factors like smoking, eating and drinking pigmented foods and beverages, taking certain medications and erosion of the enamel. In these cases, you don’t really have stained teeth from braces. The staining would have occurred whether or not you had an appliance.

White spots on the teeth from braces are a different story. When you don’t brush away the bacteria in your mouth, it forms plaque, a sticky bacterial film. The nooks and crannies around where your braces brackets attach to your teeth are the perfect places for plaque to accumulate and hide. 

Whenever you eat, the bacteria in the plaque feed off the sugars and starches and release acids that leach the minerals out of your enamel. When this happens frequently enough, this process of decalcification can leave a white spot and hollow area behind. White spots lesions, technically called cariogenic white spots, are tooth decay in its earliest stages. 

The most common cause of decalcification of the teeth after braces is poor oral hygiene. Though, if your mouth is very acidic, your teeth will be more susceptible to decalcification and white spots too.

How to Prevent Stains and White Spots on Your Teeth From Braces

While we’ll talk about how to fix white spots from braces, the truth is, prevention is your best bet. Here are some tried and true ways to stop braces stains before they start:

  • Practice Excellent Oral Hygiene

As we mentioned, the main cause of white spots on teeth from braces is the accumulation of plaque around the hardware. At Innovative Orthodontic Centers, we use self-ligating braces, which don’t require elastics or metal ties like traditional braces. This gives plaque one less place to hang out and makes oral hygiene a bit easier. 

That said, you’ll still need to brush your teeth in the morning, after meals and snacks, and before bed. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste. Be sure to brush all of the surfaces of your teeth, giving each individual tooth attention, as well as around the top, bottom and sides of your brackets. 

Floss once daily too. Use waxed dental floss and a floss threader, a product like SuperFloss or a special orthodontic flosser. Floss up and down the sides of each tooth, getting under the gumline, to remove as much plaque and bacteria as possible. 

  • Rinse Your Mouth if You Don’t Have Access to Your Toothbrush

If you’re at school or work and forget your toothbrush, rinse your mouth out really well with water after eating or drinking. This will help whisk away food particles, bacteria and plaque. Brush your teeth as soon as you get home. 

  • Incorporate Extra Tools Into Your Brushing and Flossing Routine

There are extra tools that can eliminate plaque that is hard to reach with your toothbrush and dental floss. An interdental brush, also called an interproximal brush or proxy brush, is a good place to start. These tiny brushes are perfect for getting in between teeth with large spaces, as well as for cleaning around your brackets. Use a proxy brush on your brackets before brushing your teeth with your toothbrush.

A Waterpik, or water flosser, is another excellent braces tool. While using a water flosser won’t replace your daily flossing with dental floss, it’s an additional step that the majority of our Naperville and Shorewood braces patients find to be well worth it. Use your water flosser once a day to dislodge food and plaque stuck in your braces and to give your gums a little TLC.

  • Eat a Healthy Diet and Enjoy Sugary and Starchy Foods in Moderation

The bacteria in your mouth excrete the acids that lead to decalcification when they feed on sugars and starches. To keep acid attacks to a minimum, eat a healthy, well-rounded diet filled with vegetables, fruit, complex carbohydrates, low-fat dairy or dairy alternatives, lean protein and healthy fats. Have sugary treats and simple starches (i.e., chips, white bread, etc.) in moderation and be sure to brush well after having them. 

Things like soda, sports drinks and energy drinks, which have the one-two punch of acidity and sugar, should be avoided during your braces treatment, or at least saved for special occasions. Even diet soda and sugar-free energy drinks are harmful to the enamel. The same is true for sticky foods. Not only can sugary, sticky things damage your braces, they’re also harder to brush away and tend to sit on the teeth longer. 

  • Keep Up With Regular Exams and Cleanings at Your General Dentist

Visiting your general dentist for a cleaning and exam every six months is more important than ever when you have braces. Your dentist will evaluate your teeth and gums and be able to detect signs of decalcification or decay in their earliest stages. They can then help you get back on track and avoid cavities and braces stains.

During professional dental cleanings, the hygienist uses special tools to get rid of hardened plaque (tartar) that you can’t remove at home with a regular toothbrush and floss. This will go a long way in keeping white spots from forming. 

  • Don’t Skip the Fluoride

There is a constant battle between demineralization (when the acids leach minerals from the enamel) and remineralization (when your saliva deposits minerals back into the enamel) going on in your mouth. You can give remineralization an edge, which will prevent decalcification, with fluoride. Brush your teeth with a fluoride toothpaste and consider using a fluoride mouthwash as well. 

If you’re at risk for cavities or white spots from braces, you can also ask your dentist or orthodontist about a professional fluoride treatment or a prescription toothpaste or mouthwash. 

  • Be Careful With Acidic Foods and Drinks

Acidic foods and beverages can weaken your enamel, making it more prone to decalcification and decay. Just like with sweets, you’ll want to enjoy acidic things in moderation. If you do have something acidic, such as orange juice or tomato sauce, rinse your mouth out with water after and wait about 30 minutes before brushing your teeth. If you brush your teeth right away, it can damage your already vulnerable enamel. 

  • Avoid the Notorious Culprits Behind Stained Teeth

Habits like smoking or drinking tons of coffee will cause stained teeth with or without braces. But, if you’re worried about having stained teeth after braces treatment, it’s still a good idea to avoid smoking, using tobacco products or having too many highly pigmented foods and drinks. We’d never tell you to forgo caffeine altogether, but limiting your coffee intake and rinsing your mouth out after drinking it can help keep your teeth white. 

How to Get Rid of Braces Stains

Are white spots from braces permanent? Not usually. There are treatments to get rid of white spots after braces, or at least diminish their appearance. If you choose not to have them treated, they won’t disappear completely, but they do generally fade over time. 

Here are some solutions for getting rid of braces stains:

1. Try Professional Teeth Whitening 

For generally stained teeth or mild white spots, a teeth whitening treatment will remove stains and help the white areas blend in with your smile. It’s best to use a professional take-home whitening kit or schedule a visit for in-office teeth whitening. Your dentist will evaluate your teeth beforehand to make sure whitening will be effective and safe. The results will be much more dramatic than you could achieve with at-home, over-the-counter products. 

2. Schedule a Cleaning With Your Dentist

A professional cleaning will eliminate surface stains and tartar, which could be making white spots appear worse than they are. Once your teeth are clean and plaque-free, your smile will look whiter and brighter, and your dentist can accurately evaluate the degree of decalcification.

3. Ask Your Dentist for a Topical Fluoride Treatment

Topical fluoride treatments at your dentist contain a much higher level of fluoride than toothpaste or mouthwash. At the practices in the Innovative Dental Partners’ family, we usually use a fluoride varnish. The varnish is simple to apply, affordable and an excellent way to strengthen enamel and areas of delcalficiation. Depending on how severe the decalcification is, this could help reverse the early decay and reduce the appearance of braces spots. 

4. Consider a Prescription Paste

MI Paste, a prescription product technically called casein phosphopeptide-amorphous calcium phosphate, or CPP-ACP, and sodium fluoride (NaF) are both thought to help remineralize white spots, decreasing their appearance. However, additional research is still needed and these options are more effective when used preventatively before white spots develop. 

5. Cosmetic Dental Treatments

For certain cases, as a last resort, treatment like enamel microdermabrasion, where the affected enamel is removed and the teeth are then bleached, cosmetic dental bonding or composite fillings can mask white spots. In extreme situations, getting dental veneers will cover the stained teeth. 

6. ICON Infiltration Technique

For most patients, the ICON Infiltration Technique is the most effective, safest way to fix white spots from braces. At Naperville Dental Specialists (which is under the same roof as us!), the general and cosmetic dentists offer ICON Caries Infiltrant

During the white spot treatment, they apply a highly fluid resin that painlessly enters the pore system of the damaged tooth. It fills the area and prevents cavity-causing acids from penetrating. This stops the early decay from progressing, preserves the tooth’s natural structure and helps white spots blend in with your healthy enamel. The best part is that it doesn’t involve needles or drilling. 

Key Takeaways:

  • Braces stains typically take the form of white spots on the teeth after your braces come off. 
  • These white spots are areas of decalcification, or very early decay, caused by plaque build-up around your braces brackets. 
  • Braces stains are easily prevented with proper oral hygiene, a healthy diet, and regular exams and cleanings at your general dentist. 
  • If you do experience white spots on the teeth after braces, there are treatments, including the ICON Infiltration Technique, that can significantly reduce their appearance. 

Schedule a Complimentary Consultation at Innovative Orthodontic Centers!

If you’re ready to get straight teeth and a healthy bite, schedule a complimentary consultation at Innovative Orthodontic Centers today. Our board-certified, Naperville orthodontists will work with you to ensure you get fantastic results without stains or spots. 

If you’d rather skip braces altogether, we’re also an Invisalign Diamond+ Top 1% Provider. We offer Invisalign for kids, teens and adults and have the expertise to achieve outstanding outcomes even in complex cases.

Dr. Manal Ibrahim