One of the most common questions we get on ArchWire’s Metal Mouth Forum involves brackets (particularly ceramic brackets) stained from foods, particularly curry. Relax, your brackets are NOT stained. The brackets themselves are still white, but the elastic ligatures have become stained. The ligatures are those little o-shaped bands on each bracket that hold the arch wire in place.
Yes I know, the brackets look stained. But believe me, in most cases, it’s only the elastic ligatures. Really! And those get changed by your orthodontist every 4-6 weeks. So the next time you have an adjustment, the stained ligatures will be replaced with fresh new ones and your braces will look white and perfect again. Even if you have metal brackets, the ligatures look a little gross once they get stained from food, which can be disconcerting.
But what if it will be weeks until your next adjustment? How can you get rid of stains from curry, mustard, coffee, tea, red wine or smoking? Well, here’s the bad news: it’s very difficult. You can try brushing with whitening toothpaste, but that has very limited results. The yellowish tinge will probably still be visible to some degree because the ligature material itself has become discolored (and the discoloration has sunk into the material). If you have an important engagement and need your braces to look white again, you must visit your orthodontist and get your ligatures changed.
Here are some suggestions to help you avoid this problem in the future:
Instead of clear or white ligatures, choose light blue, or smoke color. ArchWired readers have said that the smoke colored ligatures do not stain. The light blue ligatures turn bright green immediately from curry, but after a few brushings with regular (non-whitening) toothpaste, they settle into a pleasant light teal color. Or go bold. Bolder colors don’t stain as easily.
The opalescent pearl color of ligature resists some stains (although it does not resist curry stains).
Eat curry or other staining foods only in the days before an adjustment (not really an option for us curry addicts!)
Give up smoking. Easier said than done, but better for your health!