Maintaining good oral hygiene is important for everyone, but it’s especially crucial for those with braces. Braces create more surfaces and angles for bacteria and food particles to accumulate, increasing the risk of tooth decay and gum disease. Fortunately, there are many tools and techniques available to maintain oral hygiene with braces.
In this article, we’ll discuss some tips for maintaining oral hygiene with braces, including the best tools to use, proper brushing and flossing techniques, foods to avoid, the importance of regular check-ups, and what to do in case of emergencies. By following these tips, you can keep your teeth and braces in great condition throughout your orthodontic treatment.
Tools for Proper Oral Hygiene with Braces
Proper oral hygiene with braces requires a few additional tools beyond what you may use for regular brushing and flossing. Here are some tools that can help you maintain good oral health while wearing braces:
1. Toothbrushes and toothpaste suitable for braces
A toothbrush with soft bristles is gentle on the teeth and gums and won’t damage the braces. You can use either a manual or electric toothbrush, but it’s essential to brush at least twice a day for two minutes each time. You should also use toothpaste that contains fluoride to strengthen your tooth enamel.
2. Interdental brushes, floss threaders, and water flossers
Flossing can be challenging with braces since the wires and brackets can make it difficult to reach between teeth.
Interdental brushes can help you clean around the brackets and wires, and a floss threader can help you thread the floss under the wire to get between the teeth.
Water flossers are another option that uses a stream of water to clean between teeth and around braces.
3. Orthodontic wax for discomfort
Braces can cause some discomfort, especially in the first few days after they’re put on. Orthodontic wax can help relieve the discomfort by creating a barrier between the brackets and your cheeks or lips.
Techniques for Brushing and Flossing with Braces
Brushing and flossing with braces can be challenging, but it’s essential to do it correctly to prevent tooth decay and gum disease. Here are some techniques for brushing and flossing with braces:
1. Proper brushing techniques for braces
To brush your teeth with braces, use a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste. Angle the brush so that the bristles get under the wires and clean around the brackets.
Brush in a circular motion, making sure to clean all surfaces of the teeth, including the front, back, and chewing surfaces. Spend at least two minutes brushing your teeth twice a day.
2. Flossing techniques for braces
Flossing with braces can be challenging, but it’s crucial to remove food particles and plaque from between your teeth.
Use a floss threader to thread the floss under the wire and between each tooth. Gently move the floss up and down along the side of each tooth, making a C-shape around the tooth to clean below the gum line.
Repeat this process for each tooth, using a clean section of the floss each time.
3. Tips for getting hard-to-reach areas
Some areas of your mouth may be difficult to reach with a toothbrush or floss. For these areas, use an interdental brush or a water flosser to remove food particles and plaque.
An interdental brush is a small brush that can fit between your teeth and around your braces to clean hard-to-reach areas. A water flosser uses a stream of water to clean between your teeth and around your braces.
Foods to Avoid When Wearing Braces
When wearing braces, it’s important to avoid certain foods that can damage your brackets, wires, and teeth. Here are some foods to avoid when wearing braces:
1. Hard and crunchy foods
Foods like nuts, popcorn, hard candy, and ice can break or damage your braces. These hard and crunchy foods can also get stuck in your braces, making it difficult to remove them.
2. Sticky and chewy foods
Sticky and chewy foods like caramel, gummies, and taffy can pull on your brackets and wires, causing them to break or loosen.
These foods can also get stuck in your braces and promote the growth of bacteria, leading to tooth decay and gum disease.
3. Sugary and acidic foods
Foods and drinks that are high in sugar and acid can damage your teeth and braces. Sugary foods and drinks can lead to tooth decay, while acidic foods and drinks can erode your tooth enamel and damage your braces.
4. Tough and chewy meats
Tough and chewy meats like beef jerky and pork chops can be difficult to chew with braces, and they can also damage your wires and brackets.
5. Chewing gum
Chewing gum can get stuck in your braces, and the sugar in the gum can lead to tooth decay. If you need to freshen your breath, try using a breath freshener spray instead.
Regular Check-Ups and Cleanings
Regular check-ups and cleanings are essential for maintaining good oral health when wearing braces. Here are some subheadings to elaborate on the importance of regular check-ups and cleanings:
1. Frequency of check-ups and cleanings
When wearing braces, it’s recommended to visit your dentist or orthodontist every six months for a check-up and cleaning.
This allows your dentist to monitor the progress of your orthodontic treatment and make any necessary adjustments to your braces. It also allows them to check for any signs of tooth decay, gum disease, or other oral health issues.
2. Benefits of check-ups and cleanings
Regular check-ups and cleanings can help prevent tooth decay and gum disease, which are common problems when wearing braces.
During a cleaning, your dentist or dental hygienist will remove any plaque and tartar buildup that may have accumulated around your braces, reducing the risk of tooth decay and gum disease.
They can also provide advice on proper oral hygiene techniques for braces and answer any questions you may have about your treatment.
3. Adjustments to braces
During a check-up, your orthodontist may need to make adjustments to your braces to ensure that they are working correctly.
They may tighten or loosen the wires, change the rubber bands, or make other adjustments to help straighten your teeth properly.
Regular adjustments can help shorten the duration of your orthodontic treatment and improve the overall results.
4. Monitoring oral health
Regular check-ups allow your dentist to monitor your oral health and catch any problems early on. This is particularly important when wearing braces, as food particles can easily get stuck in your braces, leading to tooth decay and gum disease.
Your dentist can also check for signs of other oral health issues, such as oral cancer, and provide early intervention if necessary.
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Handling emergencies when wearing braces can be stressful, but it’s important to know what to do in case of an emergency. Here are some subheadings to elaborate on how to handle emergencies when wearing braces:
1. Types of emergencies
There are several types of emergencies that can occur when wearing braces, such as broken wires or brackets, loose bands, or severe tooth pain.
It’s important to be familiar with these types of emergencies and know what to do in each situation.
2. Immediate steps to take
If you experience an emergency with your braces, it’s important to take immediate steps to prevent further damage.
For example, if a wire breaks, you can use orthodontic wax to cover the sharp end and prevent it from poking your cheek or tongue.
If a bracket comes loose, you can try to reattach it using dental wax until you can see your orthodontist.
3. Contacting your orthodontist
In case of an emergency, it’s important to contact your orthodontist as soon as possible. They can provide guidance on what to do next and schedule an appointment to fix the issue.
Most orthodontists have emergency hotlines that you can call after hours in case of an emergency.
4. Dealing with pain
Some emergencies, such as severe tooth pain, may require immediate attention from a dentist. In these cases, it’s important to seek medical attention right away.
In the meantime, you can take over-the-counter pain relievers or use ice packs to reduce swelling and alleviate pain.
5. Preventing emergencies
Preventing emergencies is the best way to avoid the stress and inconvenience of dealing with them. To prevent emergencies, it’s important to follow your orthodontist’s instructions for proper care and maintenance of your braces.
This includes avoiding certain foods that can damage your braces, practicing good oral hygiene, and wearing a mouthguard during sports or other physical activities.
Maintaining good oral hygiene when wearing braces requires extra effort and care, but it’s worth it in the long run to achieve a healthy, beautiful smile.
By following the tips outlined in this article, including using the right tools for oral hygiene, brushing and flossing properly, avoiding certain foods, scheduling regular check-ups and cleanings, and knowing how to handle emergencies, you can keep your braces and teeth in good condition throughout your orthodontic treatment.
Remember to consult with your orthodontist or dentist if you have any questions or concerns about your braces or oral health. With a little effort and dedication, you can achieve the smile you’ve always wanted.
Here are some frequently asked questions about oral hygiene with braces:
How often should I brush and floss with braces?
You should brush and floss your teeth at least twice a day, but ideally after every meal and snack. This helps to prevent food from getting stuck in your braces and causing decay or gum disease.
Can I use a regular toothbrush with braces?
Yes, you can use a regular toothbrush with braces, but it’s important to use a soft-bristled brush and brush at a 45-degree angle to the gumline. Electric toothbrushes can also be effective in cleaning around braces.
Do I need to use special floss with braces?
Yes, you should use special floss designed for use with braces, such as floss threaders or orthodontic floss. These tools can help you get the floss underneath the wires and between your teeth.
What foods should I avoid when wearing braces?
You should avoid sticky, hard, or crunchy foods that can damage your braces or get stuck in them, such as popcorn, hard candy, nuts, and chewing gum. Also, avoid sugary or acidic foods and drinks that can lead to decay or erosion of the enamel.
How often should I schedule check-ups and cleanings with my orthodontist?
You should schedule regular check-ups and cleanings with your orthodontist every six to eight weeks. This allows your orthodontist to monitor your progress and make any necessary adjustments to your treatment plan.
What should I do in case of an emergency with my braces?
In case of an emergency, such as a broken wire or bracket, loose band, or severe tooth pain, you should contact your orthodontist right away. They can provide guidance on what to do next and schedule an appointment to fix the issue.
Here are some medical references related to oral hygiene with braces:
- Al-Silwadi FM, Gill DS, Petrie A, et al. Oral hygiene instructions for orthodontic patients to prevent enamel decalcification. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2018;3(3):CD010859. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD010859.pub2
- Benson PE, Parkin N, Dyer F, Millett DT, Furness S, Germain P. Fluorides for the prevention of early tooth decay (demineralised lesions) during fixed brace treatment. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2013;12(12):CD003809. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD003809.pub4
- Hua F, Xie H, Zhang D, et al. Effect of orthodontic treatment on oral health: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Oral Dis. 2018;24(8):1381-1393. doi: 10.1111/odi.12923
- Kim JY, Shin JY, Baik BJ, Han DH. Effect of an oral hygiene program for orthodontic patients. Am J Orthod Dentofacial Orthop. 2015;147(5):610-616. doi: 10.1016/j.ajodo.2014.11.023
- Pandis N, Fleming PS, Spineli LM, et al. The assessment of risk of bias in systematic reviews of randomized trials in orthodontics. Orthod Craniofac Res. 2015;18 Suppl 1:1-9. doi: 10.1111/ocr.12089