Having a good oral hygiene regimen is important for everyone, but is absolutely crucial during orthodontic treatment. Though your braces or aligners are doing their job in correcting misaligned teeth, they might also trap food particles. It is also more challenging to keep your teeth and appliances clean – but you can do it and we can help!
Food that becomes trapped in those nooks and crannies around your braces can lead to the formation of plaque, which is a sticky film on your teeth that contains potentially harmful bacteria. The bacteria uses the sugars in food to produce acids that can erode teeth and eventually eat away at tooth enamel. If the plaque is not removed, it can result in cavities, white spots on the teeth, bad breath and even gum disease.
Your teeth’s best defenses against plaque are: diet, daily maintenance and regular professional care.
Diet and Decay
Watching what you eat by cutting down or eliminating sugary foods like soda and sweets can decrease the risk of developing tooth decay. It is also important to control your diet by avoiding sticky foods like gum, licorice or caramels that could easily become stuck in your braces.
Extremely hard or sticky foods can cause physical damage to your orthodontic appliances, resulting in broken wires or loose brackets. You should refrain from eating food such as nuts or hard candies, beef jerky and even hard pizza crust. Eat healthy foods like apples and carrots instead, making sure to cut them into bite-sized pieces first! And definitely don’t chew on pencils, nails or even ice as these habits can not only damage your appliances, but could result in chipped teeth.
You are already aware that brushing and flossing are necessary for a healthy smile – but these habits are especially vital while receiving orthodontic treatment. Though it is more difficult to clean your teeth effectively around your appliances, there are some tips and tools we suggest for better tooth cleaning.
Using a soft-bristle or bi-level toothbrush (one with longer bristles on the edges and shorter ones in the middle) is effective in removing plaque – even with braces. If you prefer an electric toothbrush it should be used on a moderate setting. An interdental brush, or proxabrush, can be used for harder to clean areas. This tooth-cleaning aid, which is shaped like a pipe cleaner, efficiently goes between wires, brackets and teeth. You can reach even the smallest nooks and crannies with gentle, persistent effort, helping even more in controlling plaque buildup.
Flossing once a day (at least) is imperative during orthodontic treatment. Though gums need to be thoroughly cleaned, you don’t want to be too rough on them, so use floss gently. For occasional irritation or minor gum inflammation, an antiseptic rinse can be used. Because it may be somewhat more difficult to floss than normal, we can suggest special products, such as floss threaders or certain types of floss. This will help you floss more effectively between the wires and gum line. We may also suggest supplemental fluoride treatment for greater cavity resistance.
At the time you receive your braces, our staff will review proper brushing and flossing techniques. You can call at any time, of course, if you have questions.
Retainers must be brushed every day, just as you brush your teeth. Do not use hot water to clean a retainer, as it might distort the soft plastic, making it unusable. When it is not in your mouth, make sure you keep your retainer in its case.
Though you will visit us regularly for your orthodontic care, it is still important to see your regular dentist. He or she will ensure that your teeth are healthy and take care of general tooth issues that might arise. We, on the other hand, are focused on improving your alignment and bite. Remember, your care is a cooperative effort between our office, your dentist and you. If we all do our part, the result will be a beautiful, healthy smile.