When you think of orthodontics, you're likely immediately imagining a smile with braces. Braces can help several issues relating to your oral health such as teeth irregularities, jaw issues, and malocclusion. Malocclusion is a fairly common condition in which there is a misalignment of the teeth in the upper and lower jaw. Malocclusion may cause the teeth to appear crooked or to protrude over each other, leading to a bad bite.
Braces can help these issues over time. Braces adhere semi-permanently to the teeth, slowly and gently shifting them into alignment. If you have braces, it's crucial to take care of them properly. Caring for your braces helps you maintain proper dental hygiene and keeps your braces looking their best.
Brushing and Flossing with Braces
Braces require more care and attention to your oral care routine. Brushing and flossing your teeth takes a bit more time, patience, and practice for those who have braces. Learning how to do this the right way will make your time with braces well worth their while.
How to brush your teeth with braces
For those without braces, it's normal to hold your toothbrush flat or parallel to your teeth. However, with braces, you should tilt the bristles of the toothbrush at an angle of about 45 degrees to your teeth. This helps to clean under the brackets and wires of the braces and cleans your gums properly.
Brush for about two to three minutes each time but expect it to take a bit longer until you master the technique. You can always ask your dentist or hygienist to demonstrate how brushing with braces is done. Here's a step by step how to from Kneib Dentistry:
- Begin by brushing the outside of your upper teeth, using a circular motion, about ten strokes of brushing.
- Use the same motion to brush the inner surfaces of your top teeth.
- Move on to brushing the chewing surfaces of these teeth.
- Repeat these steps for your lower teeth.
- Rinse your mouth and your toothbrush.
- Use a mirror to check that the surfaces of your teeth and braces are clean.
- Continue brushing if needed.
- Check your teeth and braces again.
- Rinse your mouth and your toothbrush once you are all done.
Brushing your teeth right after each snack or meal is ideal. Otherwise, do so at least twice per day. When brushing is not possible, rinse your mouth with water after eating. It will dislodge larger bits of food from between the braces.
Tips for flossing with braces
Floss your teeth once per day while you are wearing braces. Use waxed dental floss as it is less likely to get caught in your braces. Also, you should use a floss threader. This is simply a flexible piece of plastic. It helps you get the floss behind the wiring of your braces and between your teeth.
You can also consider using specially designed floss picks for braces. They give you better maneuverability, especially at flossing your back teeth. They may also make your flossing easier and more effective for children who might find that using a floss pick is the easiest way to floss with braces.
What happens if you neglect to brush and floss with braces?
There is a higher risk of tooth decay and gum disease if you don't brush and floss properly while wearing braces. Food that is not cleaned away can stick to your braces and begins to form a sticky, colorless film of plaque on your teeth. The bacteria in plaque begin to eat away at your teeth, causing cavities and other dental issues.
Toothpaste, Mouthwash, and Toothbrushes for Braces
The best toothpaste for braces
The best toothpaste to use when you have braces is one that contains fluoride. It is also the best kind to use even if you don't have braces. The fluoride helps to strengthen your teeth and makes them more resistant to decay.
Avoid using whitening toothpaste with your braces. Your braces may cause the whitening toothpaste to whiten your teeth unevenly. You may also find that areas directly behind the braces are noticeably darker than the rest of your teeth once the braces are removed.
The best mouthwash for braces
Selecting the right mouthwash is important to consider if you have braces. Dentists recommend using a mouthwash during your typical dental hygiene routine and it's important not to skip this step if you have braces, as it can lead to dental issues in general. Here are suggestions for choosing a mouthwash that is suitable for your braces:
- Choose a mouthwash that is fortified with fluoride. It will prevent tooth decalcification and the white spots this leaves on your teeth after the braces are removed.
- Look for a mouthwash that is more alkaline than acidic. Acidic mouthwashes might deteriorate your teeth. A more alkaline mouthwash may help to neutralize the acids released by bacterial plaque.
- Avoid mouthwash with alcohol. The alcohol may affect the material of the braces, eroding it and causing the brackets to disconnect.
- Be aware that dyes in colored mouthwashes may lead to discoloration of your braces. This is important to know if you opt for clear or tooth-colored braces.
The best toothbrushes for braces
When thinking about how to take care of braces, picking the right toothbrush can be very beneficial. The toothbrush you had before you had your braces installed may not be the best one for you now. The best toothbrushes for braces have soft, rounded bristles. This is true whether you choose a traditional toothbrush or an electric toothbrush. It makes them less likely to damage or loosen the brackets and wires of your braces.
Be sure to change your toothbrush every three months. Its bristles will wear faster from brushing against the material of your braces. If you wish to use an electric toothbrush with your braces, ensure it has a setting for low or sensitive vibrations. The lower speed will keep it from loosening and damaging your braces.
What to Eat with Braces
You may need to adjust a few of your eating habits once you have braces. Your braces might be damaged by some of your regular foods. Also, some foods may make it harder to clean your teeth while you are wearing braces, leading to undesirable dental issues.
Foods to avoid with braces
Avoid chewy and sticky foods as they can bend and tug at your braces. Lemons, lemon juice, and overly sweet and carbonated drinks may lead to plaque buildup and wearing away of your teeth. Either avoid them or be sure to rinse your teeth with water right after consumption.
Biting into a whole apple could spell disaster. Enjoy your apples by cutting them into wedges first. Large, hard pretzels are another food to avoid. They can bend and break your braces. Corn on the cob is a no-no but you can have corn once it is removed from the cob.
Popcorn kernels might get trapped by your braces and so popcorn is best avoided, too. Other foods that should be avoided include:
- Ice – crunching ice is a no-no
- Hard cookies, hard rolls, and hard crackers
- Corn chips and hard taco shells
- Hard raw veggies, such as carrot sticks – cut your carrots into thin curls instead
- Pizza crust and hard bread
Safe foods to eat with braces
It may seem like there are plenty of foods to avoid with braces but there are also lots of yummy foods you can have.
- Soft fruits and fruits without pits – bananas, strawberries, grapes, and oranges are good examples
- Soft cheeses
- Soft dairy-based desserts, such as yogurt and pudding
- Seafood and soft-cooked meats
- Mashed potatoes
- Soft tortillas, pancakes, and cookies
- Peanut butter and jelly
- Pasta and noodles, such as spaghetti, mac and cheese, and ravioli
Orthodontic Check-ups with Kneib Dentistry
Regular orthodontic check-ups can help you and your dentist decide whether you need braces. We offer affordable orthodontic solutions and would be happy to discuss your options during an appointment. The experienced professionals at Kneib Dentistry can answer any questions you have about installing braces, caring for your braces after installation, or getting retainers after your braces are removed.