If you thought brushing and flossing were important before you got braces, think about the added care that needs to be taken now that you have braces. People undergoing orthodontic treatment need to be even more dedicated to good oral hygiene.
Braces trap food very easily and increase the surface areas for plaque to form in your mouth. If plaque is not carefully removed from teeth and from around braces, patients run the risk of developing gum disease, dental decay and bad breath.
Plaque is a mixture of bacteria, debris and bits of food. The bacteria feed on sugars and produce acids. The acids can irritate your gums and erode the enamel on your teeth.
Use a soft-bristle toothbrush. Soft bristles are better than medium or hard bristles at getting into those nooks and crannies around your appliances. They are also more gently on your gums. Hard scrubbing on your gums can lead to gum recession.
Some companies make toothbrushes especially for people with braces. Known as bi-level brushes, they have longer bristles on the edges and shorter ones in the middle. This type of brush allows you to clean the area above and below the brackets and the brackets as well.
The most important thing is to look for a brush that’s soft and approved by the American Dental Association (ADA). After that, the size of the brush, the shape of the handle and other variations are up to you.
What about an electric toothbrush? It’s not necessary, but if you have one, it’s safe to use it on your braces. Just be careful not to hit the plastic back of the brush against the brackets on your braces because it can damage them. Also, it should be used on a moderate setting so as not to break or loosen braces.
Brush at least three times a day. It is best to brush after meals to make sure there’s no food trapped in or around braces. If you are not able to brush after lunch, at least rinse your mouth with water very thoroughly.
Brush for at least two to three minutes each time. It’s best to use a watch or timer to make sure you are brushing long enough.
Brushing should be done slowly and carefully. It’s important to brush the braces and all the surfaces of the teeth, that is, the inside and outside surface and the chewing surfaces, too. Pay special attention to the areas between your brackets and your gums. Remember, each bracket has five exposed surfaces. That’s five more areas per tooth that plaque can form! Make sure you are throughly brushing all areas of every tooth and bracket.
Floss at least once a day. It might seem like you can’t possibly floss while you have braces, but you can and you should. Special flossing products can help you get into the space between the wires and your gumline. When your braces are first put on, someone in your orthodontist’s office should review flossing techniques. If you’re not sure you’re doing it right, ask your orthodontist during your next visit.
While you’re wearing braces, you need to think twice about eating foods that could increase your risk of cavities. You also should avoid anything that might damage your brackets or wires. Frequently breaking your braces will add to the overall treatment time.
Stay away from hard and sticky foods. Caramel, hard candy, gum – you get the idea. They can damage your braces and get stuck in the wires and brackets. While the food’s stuck there, it provides lots of sugar for cavity-causing bacteria to munch on.
Cut down on all sugary foods. You can still have a limited amount of sweets and soda, but the more sugars you eat, the greater your risk of tooth decay. Always brush after eating sugary foods or candy.
It’s not just what you eat, but also when you eat it. Frequent snacking on sugary foods is worse than eating those foods with a non-sugary meal. Don’t eat sugary foods or candy before going to bed without brushing. The more chances you give the bacteria to turn sugars into acids, the higher your risk of decay.
Don’t ignore your dentist during orthodontic treatment. Even though you are visiting your orthodontist regularly, it is essential to continue to visit your dentist at least twice a year for a check up and cleaning.
Keep your braces and your smile healthy and you will see the benefits for years to come!