Taking care of your teeth while you have braces has many things that are business as usual, and many things that are not. During orthodontic treatment, there are a few things to bear in mind about your oral health that will get you to the end of treatment and minimize the risk of decay or other oral health problems.
First, It’s Back to Basics
The foundation of your oral health care is always to keep your teeth clean from food and bacteria. You should brush, floss, and swish with an anticavity mouthwash at a minimum of twice a day, in the morning and at night.
With braces, however, you might want to brush after every meal because food can get stuck in your braces. At the very least, swish with water to dislodge any food in your braces.
Flossing is more challenging with braces. You need to get the floss between your braces and the gum line. Also, you need to be careful with the floss and your wires; if you are too rough with the floss, you can damage the braces and archwires.
Some patients like the specialized orthodontic flossers that help navigate the wires and get between the teeth and gums. These flossers are designed to fit underneath your brackets to allow the floss to get up to the gumline.
This video will show you how the Platypus Flosser works:
Another option for cleaning is to use a Waterpik or Airpik to get food and bacteria out of the oral cavity. Often, these types of tools can flush out food that other oral health tools cannot reach.
You can also use a proxabrush, which looks like a bottle brush. These appliances are used to clean food between braces. You insert it from the top and bottom between two brackets and clean side to side between them.
Brushing, flossing, and swishing are fundamental to maintaining your oral health, with or without braces. However, there are few more things to consider when you have braces concerning your oral health. Following are oral healthcare tips for patients that wear braces:
- Avoid foods that will complicate matters. The American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) says you should stay away from foods that are hard, sticky, crunchy, or chewy. The AAO also advises you to avoid sugary and acidic drinks, like soda, fruit juices, sports drinks, and energy drinks. WebMD has a handy list that includes:[i]
- Foods that are difficult to bite, like apples, corn on the cob, or bagels
- Especially chewy foods, like taffy, gum, or caramels
- Foods that are hard and crunchy, like pretzels, popcorn, nuts, and carrots
- Do not crunch ice. When you bite down on ice, not only could it damage your braces, but it can also cause mini-fractures to the enamel.
- Brush for at least two minutes with a soft-bristled brush. Whether they are wearing braces or not, many people do not brush their teeth long enough. We recommend brushing for two minutes at least twice a day. Also, as Delta Dental points out, you want to use a soft-bristled toothbrush and apply gentle pressure in a circular motion.[ii] Having a lighter touch will protect your braces.
- Wear a mouthguard when participating in sports. Sports are an excellent activity for our patients that wear braces, and we want them to keep it up. To avoid injury during play, we recommend wearing a mouthguard on both the top and bottom teeth during practice and games. You can buy an over-the-counter version, or, as Colgate recommends, have a custom mouthguard tailored by a dentist for a better fit.[iii]
- Be sure to visit your regular dentist. You will be seeing your orthodontist every four to six weeks. However, you will need to continue to see your regular dentist and hygienist throughout treatment as well. Be sure to talk with your dentist about how often he or she would like to see you in their office during your orthodontic treatment.
- Make use of your utensils. Using a knife and fork to eat rather than biting into food is a good idea when you are in braces. The action of biting into food causes it to catch your braces and can cause damage to the brackets, bands, and wires. So, even though it isn’t the usual way to eat them, you should cut up foods like burgers and pizza into bite-sized pieces.
- When in doubt, pick chocolate. Here’s a tip we know you can get behind. If you are choosing between sweets, pick chocolate. It not only satisfies your sweet tooth but also chocolate is soft and dissolves quickly without doing damage to your braces. Just be sure to clean your teeth afterward, so the sugars in the candy don’t break down enamel and contribute to decay.
What If I Have Clear Aligners?
If you have clear aligners for your orthodontic treatment, you do not have restrictions about food. You will also have an easier time with things like flossing than people who have traditional braces.
However, you do have some things to remember regarding your oral health care. It is essential to clean your teeth thoroughly after eating before you replace the aligners to prevent decay.
Also, you can only drink tap water with the aligners in place. For everything else, you need to take out the tray while you drink and then brush your teeth before you replace the aligner.
Whether you have braces or clear aligners, it is essential to maintain your oral health. Keep up the basics and mind the other details about diet and protecting the oral cavity, and you will keep up a foundation of excellent oral health that will keep your smile looking beautiful long after the braces are gone.
To schedule your free consultation today, call Bloom Orthodontics office in Long Beach at 562-421-8883.
Bloom Orthodontics in Long Beach has a long history improving our patients’ smiles. We provide modern orthodontic treatments delivered with old fashioned excellence in patient experience. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram.
[i] “Caring for Teeth With Braces and Retainers.” www.webmd.com. Web. 19 June 2019. <https://www.webmd.com/oral-health/guide/care-of-braces-retainers#1>.
[ii] Bryana. “6 Braces Care Tips.” www.deltadentalwa.com. 13 June 2018. Web. 19 June 2019. <https://www.deltadentalwa.com/blog/entry/2018/06/braces-care-tips>.
[iii] “Caring for Braces: You’re On Your Way to A Healthy Smile.” www.colgate.com. Web. 19 June 2019. <https://www.colgate.com/en-us/oral-health/cosmetic-dentistry/adult-orthodontics/caring-for-braces-you-are-on-your-way-to-a-healthy-smile-0414>.