Oral Hygiene with Braces: How to Do It and Why It’s Important
Having a mouth full of brackets and wires probably isn’t your favourite thing in the world, but straight, beautiful teeth are worth it. However, your teeth won’t be so beautiful when your braces come off if you don’t take proper care of them while they’re on.
Your teeth-cleaning routine is a little different when you have braces than it is without. Read on to learn about good oral hygiene with braces, and the proper techniques to keep your pearly whites looking their best.
How Do Braces Affect Oral Hygiene?
Having brackets on your teeth means there are more crevices and spaces where food can get trapped. If the food isn’t brushed away, plaque will form.
Plaque is a sticky film that builds up on your teeth and harbours bacteria. The bacteria in plaque are what lead to cavities. These bacteria are responsible for tooth decay and can cause gum disease as well.
Getting Rid of Plaque
Plaque will build up on your teeth even without braces. No matter what, you have to brush and floss regularly to keep plaque from doing any damage. However, braces increase the potential for plaque build-up since they cover your teeth, which makes entirely removing plaque much harder. If you aren’t thorough, plaque can build up around the brackets, leading to decay.
What Will Happen If I Don’t Clean My Teeth Well?
The immediate concerns if you don’t properly clean your teeth with braces are cavities, decalcifications, and gum disease.
Cavities happen when the bacteria in your mouth consume sugar from your food and excrete acid.
The acid dissolves the enamel on your teeth until tiny holes appear. These tiny holes get bigger until they form one large hole, which is called a cavity. Cavities must be filled in by your dentist to keep your teeth from decaying.
Decalcifications are white spots on your teeth and are similar to the beginning stages of a cavity. They happen when bacteria in plaque on your teeth dissolve minerals in your enamel. This gives part of your tooth a white, chalky appearance.
While decalcifications can happen even without braces, braces can make you more prone to them because the brackets trap food.
The bacteria in plaque can also cause gum disease. Gingivitis is the first stage of gum disease. It happens when bacteria irritate your gum tissue and cause it to become inflamed.
Symptoms of gingivitis can include:
- Bright red, tender gums.
- Bleeding when you brush and floss.
Gingivitis is reversible, but if left untreated it can lead to periodontitis. This is a much more serious form of gum disease that can result in tooth loss and bone destruction you definitely want to avoid it!
How Should I Clean My Braces?
Brushing and cleaning your teeth becomes even more important with braces, but the actual technique isn’t too different. Just follow these steps:
- Use a soft-bristled or electric toothbrush.
- Apply a strip of fluoride-based toothpaste.
- Gently but thoroughly brush the fronts, backs, and chewing surfaces of your teeth using small circles.
- Make sure that you brush all the way up to the gum line.
- Rinse your mouth.
- Floss with floss threaders or braces-compatible pre-threaded floss picks, so you can get under the wires easily. If you dislike flossing with string, you can use an electric water flosser instead.
- Rinse with mouthwash.
- Remember to replace your toothbrush about every three months. (The brackets of your braces may wear out the bristles more quickly than usual.)
Your orthodontist may also provide you with extra cleaning implements, such as a spiral brush.
Spiral brushes have a pointy, round bristled tip on top of a plastic handle. They can be used along with or instead of dental floss. Spiral brushes remove plaque from places your toothbrush can’t reach, including:
- Between your teeth.
- Between the brackets of your braces.
- Under the wires of your braces.
Spiral brushes are not a replacement for brushing, but they can help keep your teeth even cleaner. Your orthodontist may give you a spiral brush, or you can buy them at your local drugstore if he or she advises you to use one.
How Often Should I Visit the Dentist?
You’ll still want to make a visit to your dentist every six months for a regular cleaning and checkup. This is in addition to your more frequent orthodontist appointments.
Your orthodontist will check your brackets and wires, tighten your braces, replace bands, etc. What the orthodontist won’t do is remove plaque and tartar build-up, check for gum disease, and make sure you don’t have any cavities. You’ll still need to need your regular dentist for these things.
Maintaining good oral hygiene with braces may take a little more time than you’re used to. However, when you get your braces removed and see your sparkling new smile, you’ll be glad you flossed!