Can You Use Teeth Whitening Systems During Clear Aligner Treatment?

Woman admiring her whitened teeth in a mirror

One of the first things people notice when meeting someone is their teeth. Having healthy teeth is a sign of good overall self-care and hygiene. We use the appearance of somebody’s teeth as a measurement of how much they take care of themselves. It’s no wonder that millions of people have turned to clear aligners for a better smile.

Traditionally, braces alone had been the leading option to straighten teeth. But in recent years, more advanced practices and technique have become available. One popular option is the use of clear aligners.

Depending on your treatment plan and the amount of time you’re willing to dedicate to teeth whitening, it may be possible while wearing aligners. The question is, how is it done? Will it affect the clear aligners? Here we will explore, step-by-step, the best ways in which you can whiten your teeth during clear aligner treatment.


Before you start any treatments, you should consult your orthodontist for a full examination and teeth assessment. This will ensure that nothing you plan on adding to your regimen affects your teeth or clear aligners in a negative way. For example, if attachments are part of your treatment plan, teeth whitening tools such as whitening strips may make them more noticeable.

Attachments and Whitening Strips Don’t Mix

Aligners sometimes use attachments on the teeth to gently move them into the correct position. Because of this, teeth whitening solutions may be a bit more complicated with aligners if attachments are part of your treatment plan. If you buy teeth whitening strips at the store and use them as directed, you will end up whitening the areas exposed to the strip but the area behind won’t be in contact with the strip itself. This can result in uneven white patches on your teeth that become more noticeable once the attachments come off at the end of your aligner treatment.

However, depending on the placement of the attachments, not all whitening treatments will need the same amount of caution. If your aligner attachments are exclusively on your molars, you can have a bit more freedom by using teeth whitening systems only on visible teeth. There might still be discoloration, but on the back teeth, it may be less noticeable than it would be on your front teeth.

Types of Treatments

In terms of teeth whitening with aligners, there are two main options:

  • At-home treatments
  • In-office treatments

Depending on the extent of staining on your teeth or factors such as attachments, you’ll want to choose the option that is best for you ranging from gentle to strong.

Home Treatments

With commercial home bleaching treatments, people can use a strip that is placed over the teeth. Other companies employ a gel that’s placed on a tray. Most of these whitening products are peroxide-based bleaching agents. They’re the most common form of home bleaching sold on the market. They’re popular due to their availability and ease of use but may not be as effective in whitening teeth with aligners.

There are a few potential downsides to these treatments including sensitivity and irritation to the gums. If you have aligners, you might not want to deal with the added discomfort that teeth whitening may cause, especially since your teeth are already going to be more sensitive as they shift to their desired positions. In addition, if you have sensitive gums or depleted enamel, strong bleaching agents may not be the best option.

Gentler options that may be good for use during aligner treatment are whitening toothpaste or mouthwash. These still give some benefits of whitening while not being as harsh as strips or gels, so you don’t have to worry as much about negative side effects or discoloration.

In-Office Treatments

In-office bleaching treatments tend to be stronger than the ones you can take home. This procedure is done at the dental clinic with a higher concentration of peroxide. The reason why they can use a higher concentration is that they can isolate the treatments to target areas and avoid accidentally damaging your gums. They use a special rubber dam to create a barrier and keep the whitening where you want it, without excess irritation. In-office treatments also include laser whitening.

When To Get Whitening

The big question to ask yourself is whether or not you’re willing to wait to whiten your teeth. The general consensus from orthodontists online is to wait until after your clear aligner treatment to get teeth whitening done. The simple reason is that controlling one set of variables is easier than controlling two. While some teeth whitening systems may be safe for people with clear aligners, it’s hard to say for sure that one won’t affect the other. To minimize any risks and avoid may pain or discomfort, waiting until the end of treatment to whiten your teeth is the best way to ensure you get the results you want.

Smiling woman on a sofa holding Spark clear aligners looking into camera

Clear Aligners Are Not Whitening Trays

Some people may wonder if they can use their aligners as teeth whitening trays. While whitening trays and aligners may look the same, it is not recommended that you use either for anything other than their intended purpose. This is because whitening trays are meant to be loosely fitted over your teeth to deliver the product for a short period of time to avoid irritation. Aligners, on the other hand, are form-fitted and custom-made for your mouth. The interaction between the attachments and the aligners brings your teeth together and pushes them into shape. Having a teeth whitening substance in between the attachments and the aligners may potentially negate that action. On top of that, the tight fit of your aligners will push out the bleaching agent. The agent can get into your gums and even go down your throat, which can cause a multitude of problems.

Outcomes and Expectations

During your aligner treatment, do your best to maintain healthy hygiene habits. Brush your teeth regularly and floss after meals. Adopting good dental hygiene ensures that your aligners do their job right. Afterwards, you can step into a whole new phase of improving your smile. If you do decide to whiten your teeth during aligner treatment, have your dentist give you a rundown of the expectations.

Above all, be patient. Many people tend to get excited about the end result and become impatient with how long it’s taking to get there. In some cases, people may try to speed up these processes. This can possibly hurt you in the long run and cause more setbacks. Remember that both teeth whitening and clear aligner treatment are procedures designed by trained professionals and that everything takes time. Following the pace of your alignment and whitening afterward secures that investment in a perfect smile. Contact a Spark Provider today to get started on your journey!

The individuals portrayed in these images are models and the product displayed was placed for demonstration purposes only, not an actual treatment.