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Oral Hygiene

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Braces & Oral Hygiene

Plaque needs to be thoroughly removed from your teeth a couple of times each day, and it’s even more important to remove plaque when you have braces. The brackets and wires create places for plaque to hide and when bacteria-laden plaque attaches to braces and teeth, it causes cavities, swollen gums, bad breath, and permanent stain marks on your teeth. Read on to learn best practices for maintaining good oral hygiene with braces.

When You Should Clean Your Braces

If possible, you should brush your teeth after every time you eat. If you can’t actually brush with a toothbrush, then at least rinse your mouth out with water. Swoosh the water around really well and spit the water out. If you can, carry a travel toothbrush with you to school or work. Also be sure to clean between your teeth with floss at least once every day.

Make sure to see your dentist regularly every six months, or more often if your orthodontist recommends it. Your dentist and hygienist will not only help remove tartar from hard-to-reach places, but will also make sure all the braces, brackets and wires are intact and working effectively. They can also address any questions you have regarding brushing, flossing, and tips for cleaning braces in any area of your mouth that are difficult to reach.

Potential Hygiene Issues with Braces

Braces help teeth to be straighter and also healthier. However, braces can also let food and plaque buildup between brackets and under wires easily, so it’s important to maintain a proper oral hygiene routine during orthodontics treatment.

Braces make cleaning teeth a little more difficult, which can prevent people from brushing and flossing as often as they used to. However, it’s important to maintain a proper oral hygiene routine to ensure that you don’t allow your teeth to contract these potential hygiene issues:

  • Gingivitis: Gingivitis, also called gum disease, is the first stage of periodontal disease. It’s usually painless, but signs like bleeding, or swollen and puffy gums are symptoms. Gingivitis occurs when plaque builds up around the gum line, so make sure to massage your gums lightly when you brush, as well as floss diligently along the gum line.
  • Periodontitis: If not treated, gingivitis can lead to periodontitis, infection and inflammation in the gums that spreads to the ligaments and bone that support the teeth. With periodontitis, the gums start to pull away from the teeth, forming gaps or pockets between teeth that allow for more plaque to accumulate.
  • Decalcifications: Decalcifications, sometimes called “white spots,” are permanent stain marks around braces. Lines and spots from decalcification remain on your teeth for life, so the best way to avoid them is to not let them develop by brushing twice a day, every day.

How to Brush Teeth with Braces

Brushing teeth with braces isn’t too different than brushing without braces. It’s still important to brush twice a day for at least two minutes, and if possible brush after every meal to remove loose food from under brackets and wires. If brushing isn’t an option immediately after a meal, then rinse your mouth out with water to help remove larger food particles.

Use a soft bristle toothbrush or electric toothbrush and brush gently for two full minutes. Brush gently so you don’t damage the brackets or wires. You should replace your toothbrush every 3 months, or sooner if the brackets seem to make bristles wear down faster than usual. Remember to brush around all parts of the teeth, including the fronts, sides, backs, and chewing surfaces.

A toothbrush with rounded bristles works well for brushing braces, and fluoride toothpaste is always best, as it helps prevent tooth decay. Your orthodontist may also recommend a fluoride rinse to accompany proper brushing and flossing. This can help strengthen the teeth even more and keep them cavity-free throughout braces treatment.

How to Clean Between Teeth with Braces

The wires that connect braces from tooth to tooth makes flossing a challenge, but patience and using the correct floss can help greatly. A floss threader is a tool that allows dental floss to clean underneath the archwires easily. Your dentist or orthodontist can show you how to use a floss threader to ensure you’re keeping teeth and gums as clean as possible.

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