What Causes Yellow Teeth After Braces?

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Medically reviewed by Danielle Romatz, RDH

Braces are meant to make your teeth look better, but that doesn’t mean they can’t have their own negative effects. While it’s always important to practice good oral hygiene and watch what you eat, this becomes even more important for those who have had braces.

By wearing braces, your teeth are more susceptible to stains. Plaque can get around the brackets, and food can get stuck in them. This makes toothbrushing and flossing more important, along with proper treatment and regular visits to the orthodontist or dentist, to avoid or reduce staining.

The food you eat, types of beverages you consume, and how well you take care of your teeth all contribute to how they will look once braces are removed. It’s very easy to be left with yellow stains and other marks. But there are plenty of options for treating this and ways to prevent or reduce the issues braces cause when they come off.

What Causes Your Teeth to Yellow With Braces? 

Woman with braces

Plaque is the main cause of yellow teeth for people who have braces. The plaque forms after eating or drinking, and once it gets around the brackets, it becomes very difficult to remove.

The teeth are left with a yellow residue from the plaque. The bacteria in the plaque creates discoloration, leaving you with yellow, brown, or bright white stains.

That might not be the end of your problems though. Plaque can lead to the enamel weakening and white spots forming in a process known as demineralization. The longer you wear braces, the harder it will be to prevent this from occurring, too.

Certain foods can cause the teeth to yellow more than others. These include:

  • Soda
  • Energy/sport drinks
  • Wine
  • Coffee
  • Hard candy and chewy candy
  • Foods high in sugar

Granted, it’s hard to avoid this whole list all the time. If you are going to have some of them, do so with water, brush your teeth, and wash your mouth after.

Another practice to avoid is smoking. This can quickly make your teeth yellow in addition to causing several other health issues.

Are Stains From Braces Permanent? 

Stains from braces can be permanent if left untreated. But minimizing them and the impact stains can have starts while you still have braces.

As you can imagine, brushing and flossing becomes significant. Here are some ways to prevent stains from braces.

Best Practices to Prevent Stains From Braces

  • Brush regularly, at least twice a day and after meals, with a fluoride toothpaste and rinse. This is especially important if you eat or drink anything sweet or consume food that’s prone to get stuck.
  • Consider using an electric toothbrush designed for braces. These come with bristles that help remove plaque around brackets and get through the wires.
  • Floss daily and go all around your braces. While annoying, this will reduce the plaque and stain buildup. Use superfloss, which is specifically designed for braces and can get between them easily. We recommend Platypus Orthodontic Flossers (on Amazon).
  • Go to the dentist regularly for checkups and cleanings. Normally you should go every 6 months for a cleaning, but with braces consider going every 3 months.

After braces, it might not be possible to completely avoid stains or any teeth yellowing. However, these action steps should reduce the stains and help your teeth look the best they possibly can.

Additionally, once your braces are removed, it is important to have a dentist treat your teeth to remove residue and any stains that appear. Based on what the dentist finds, he or she can recommend the proper course of action and follow up steps or treatment so that your teeth remain healthy and don’t decay or worsen.

Treatment could mean veneers, composite fillings, crowns, or a possible root canal depending on the extent of the decay.

Can You Use Whitening Toothpaste With Braces On? 

Women are brushing teeth that wear braces

You should not use whitening toothpaste when you have braces. This is because the whitening ingredient only works on the parts of the teeth it touches.

Therefore, it will whiten the areas that aren’t covered by your braces, leaving you with uneven discoloration. This also applies to other products with whitening agents such as mouthwash. Avoid it with braces!

Types of Toothpaste To Use With Braces

Ones with fluoride work best. Since fluoride is naturally found in your teeth, this type of toothpaste will help keep your enamel healthy. Another factor to consider is that you might want to buy a toothpaste designed to be more sensitive.

Some people with braces could experience extra sensitivity in their mouth, apart from the soreness that comes from the teeth moving during the orthodontic treatment.

So, a type of sensitivity toothpaste like Sensodyne Rapid Relief Sensitive Fluoride Toothpaste (on Amazon) can help address at least some of the uncomfortable feeling here if your teeth are sensitive on top of being sore from being pushed around your mouth by braces.

Tartar control toothpaste is a good option too. Since tartar can easily form in people with braces, it can help to use a toothpaste that works to control and prevent this.

You also should choose a toothpaste that is approved by the American Dental Association. This should be listed right on the box or tube.

How to Treat Stains After Braces 

One of the best treatments is one that whitens your teeth. Ask your dentist or orthodontist about this because they can provide you with options. There are in-person ways to whiten your teeth as well as at-home methods.

If you want, you can likely start the whitening right after your braces are removed. The in-person visit allows a professional to apply the whitening product and takes a short amount of time.

It’s possible to complete this all in one day. This depends on an individual’s preference and sensitivity, as well as recommendation from the dentist.

For the at-home solution, the dentist or hygienist will give you the product and you can apply it yourself. Be sure to follow the instructions you receive.

Instead, you could use whitening strips and/or whitening toothpaste. These are readily available but they won’t do as good a job as the professional-grade materials. Make sure to choose ones with hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide because these chemicals will make your teeth whiter.

Getting the treatment done through a dentist or orthodontist produces the best results when it comes to whitening your teeth. So, keep that in mind when you decide which option you want.

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