Imagine how your young orthodontic patient might feel. She has spent up to 18 long months in braces, endured the regular adjustments, the discomfort, the dietary restrictions and even the laborious cleaning regimen.

The day she has been waiting for has finally arrived. The braces are coming off! Soon, her beautifully aligned teeth and shining smile will be revealed.

But for many, the joy of straight teeth is somewhat dampened by the unexpected reality of unsightly white stains on the face of teeth where the brackets used to be. Not every patient experiences this staining, but it can be a major disappointment for those who do.

Now, a new study just might make it easier for orthodontists to ensure their patients don't experience this staining in the first place.

Today's well-trained orthodontists know all about this somewhat-common staining phenomenon and take measures to prevent it in their patients where possible. The white stains that orthodontic brackets often leave on teeth is a result of something called enamel demineralization and is caused by a buildup of bacteria in the adhesive area, especially when accompanied by inadequate oral hygiene.

Orthodontists can (and certainly should) encourage all their patients to practice good dental hygiene, not only during their orthodontic treatment, but for the rest of their lives as well. Preventive measures like eliminating certain foods and drinks from their diet during the time they are wearing braces, including sugary or starchy items, high acid fruit drinks and sodas, can be a helpful stain-fighting preventive measure.

Brushing and flossing after every meal can be helpful as well. Obviously, regular dental cleanings are a must during orthodontic treatment, and some orthodontists even choose to apply a sealant on patients' teeth before the bracket adhesive is placed as an added measure of protection.

But now there may be a new option. Researchers at the Odontology Department of Valencia's Universidad CEU Cardenal Herrera along with the King's College London Dental Institute and the Universidade Federaldo Rio Grande do Sul (Brazil) partnered to compare three new types of experimental adhesives, which were developed with bacteria-fighting and remineralization properties for the prevention of bracket-inducing white stains.

This research was published in the Journal of Dentistry, one of the most prestigious in the field on an international level. All three tested materials proved effective two weeks after their use in dental enamel samples submerged in experimental saliva. That's a fairly impressive outcome.

These results are a promising step forward in the development of new adhesives that do two important things:

  1. Prevent the appearance of the bacteria that demineralizes the enamel surrounding orthodontic brackets
  2. Remineralize the area, preventing the appearance of white stains on the teeth