Dental hygiene becomes even more important if you are undergoing orthodontic treatment. Today, our BC and Alberta orthodontists discuss what caring for your braces entails, and how to protect your oral health during this period.
Dental Hygiene & Orthodontic Care
Oral and dental hygiene is essential at every stage of life, no matter who you are - especially for people with braces. The practice of keeping your teeth and mouth clean to avoid disease, decay and other problems in your mouth dictates that the rule of thumb is to brush your teeth at least twice daily to remove any plaque buildup. This should be done even more frequently when you have braces, since plaque, food particles and bacteria easily become trapped in the wires and brackets.
Your daily flossing sessions may also take a little longer as you'll need to carefully place the string of floss between your teeth while taking care to not have it get stuck in your braces.
Diligent brushing and flossing while you undergo orthodontic treatment can go a long way to increasing your chances that you'll have a healthy smile - and white teeth free of plaque and tartar buildup - when your braces come off.
Before placing your braces, your orthodontist would have assessed your mouth to confirm your teeth and gums were healthy and free from any infections since moving teeth with an active infection is dangerous. Should an infection develop during treatment, the orthodontist would need to stop treatment until the infection clears.
What should I know about caring for my braces?
Just like you did before you got braces, you'll still need to maintain a good dental hygiene regimen that includes brushing, flossing and visiting your dentist while undergoing orthodontic treatment. One of the only things that will change slightly is the method you'll use to brush and floss with braces. While it may take some time to practice and get used to, the technique shouldn't be difficult.
We recommend increasing your brushing sessions to at least three or four times a day. You'll want to be thorough as there will be a lot of nooks and crannies to reach around your braces, and it will take some time to reach them all.
What if I'm unable to brush (at school, work, etc.)?
If you've munched on a snack or had lunch and cannot find a place to brush your teeth, rinse thoroughly with water to remove any bits of food that may have gotten stuck around the wire or brackets. At a minimum, be sure to brush and floss your teeth in the morning and at night.
Which type of toothbrush should I use?
Whether you use a manual or electric toothbrush, use it to brush your teeth thoroughly. Some people prefer one or the other - you may want to give each type a try to see which works best for you. If you use a manual brush, don't forget to change it regularly.
Can my orthodontist tell if I don't brush?
In a word: Yes. Because plaque accumulates both on the gum line and around the brackets of your braces, your orthodontist will be able to tell if you don't brush properly. Plaque also stains teeth, which will be visible when braces are removed. In addition, as mentioned earlier plaque also results in cavities and can lead to gum infections, which need to be avoided while your braces are on.
Your Oral Hygiene Plan for Braces
Here is a step-by-step plan to maintain your dental hygiene during orthodontic treatment:
1. Brush Your Teeth & Braces
Using a manual or electric toothbrush topped with toothpaste or fluoride gel (no whitening toothpaste), brush your teeth after each meal or snack time. Fluoride helps to protect your tooth enamel. We recommend against using whitening toothpaste since it will only work on places it touches (not under the brackets, so wait until your braces are removed to use these products to achieve your desired results).
Hold your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle against the top of the brackets. Beginning with your top teeth, move the brush in a small circular motion, using the brush to clean your teeth, wires and brackets.
Brush the flat surfaces and inside of your top teeth before repeating on the bottom arch using the same motion and angle.
If you're not able to remove all food particles with your toothbrush, use an interdental brush to reach the rest. This tool is helpful for navigating any small gaps that your toothbrush misses.
Wrap about 20 cm of floss around your index fingers before threading it between your teeth and the wire. Gently move the floss between the teeth and into the gum, using firm pressure to dislodge any food particles or plaque.
3. Look Closely at Your Teeth & Braces
Take a close look at your teeth to ensure all food and plaque are gone, then examine wires and brackets to confirm none are loose or broken.
Sometimes, wires or brackets may rub the inside of your mouth, leading to discomfort or irritation. To address this you might take a small amount of wax and smooth it over the part of the braces causing the discomfort. Call your orthodontist if irritation continues.