Brushing and flossing during orthodontic treatment can be tricky. While it’s harder to keep your teeth and gums clean, you also have to ensure your braces don’t become home to bacteria.
The importance of brushing and flossing during orthodontic treatment is underscored by the American Dental Association. The ADA says good oral hygiene is crucial if you wear braces, and you should brush and floss as directed by your orthodontist to remove plaque – the sticky film containing harmful bacteria that accumulates on teeth and can lead to cavities and gum infections.
Brushing and flossing if you have braces takes more time but is essential to get the best results from your orthodontic treatment. Diligent brushing and flossing during orthodontic treatment will help to ensure healthy teeth and gums and an attractive smile, with no cavities, puffed-up gums or stained teeth.
Traditional braces are more discreet than ever but still consist of wires, bands, and brackets, which can trap particles of food in your mouth if not removed by effective brushing and flossing.
Wearing fixed braces demands a more laborious routine of brushing and flossing, in order to avoid a build-up of food particles and plaque on both the brackets and your teeth. The longer food debris stays lodged in your braces and teeth, the greater the danger of dental problems such as cavities, staining and gum infections.
Brushing During Orthodontic Treatment
To brush your braces and teeth effectively, use a soft-bristled brush that’s gentle on gums but robust enough to clean around the brackets of braces.
You can use a standard toothbrush or may prefer a brush specifically designed for braces. Interdental toothbrushes have replaceable heads angled to facilitate negotiating around braces.
If you prefer an electric toothbrush, use one with soft bristles and a small head. Take care not to damage the bristles by snagging them in your braces.
Dental professionals advise people wearing braces to brush their teeth after each meal and snacks.
How to Brush Effectively When Wearing Braces
Follow these steps to make sure you’re brushing your teeth correctly when wearing braces.
- Rinse your mouth to loosen any food particles lodged in and around your braces.
- Brush the gum line, using a fluoride toothpaste and angling the brush head at 45 degrees.
- Brush the upper section of the braces by angling the brush downward.
- Brush the lower section of the braces, angling upward.
- Brush the front of each tooth.
- Brush the back of each tooth.
- Brush the biting surfaces of your teeth.
- Rinse with an antiseptic or antibacterial mouthwash containing fluoride to keep infection at bay and soothe any irritation from the braces.
If you can’t always brush your teeth after eating, rinsing your mouth and then drinking plenty of water will flush out at least some food debris. Be aware of the risks associated with aggressive brushing or overbrushing, which can lead to sensitive teeth, loss of enamel and damaged gums.
Can I Brush with Whitening Toothpaste During Orthodontic Treatment?
Because cleaning your teeth while having braces can be difficult, some braces-wearers gravitate toward using a whitening toothpaste.
One school of thought is that whitening toothpaste should be avoided during orthodontic treatment. The reasoning is that uneven shading will be exposed when the braces are removed. However, the consensus among dental experts appears to contradict this view.
Whitening toothpaste contains fluoride to reinforce enamel and polishing agents for enhanced stain removal. Unlike bleaches, whitening toothpaste does not change the color of teeth and should pose no problems for people wearing braces, especially on the back of teeth.
Some whitening toothpastes can eliminate 80 percent of surface stains despite the presence of braces, according to the healthcare wing of Colgate-Palmolive, the U.S.-based global consumer products company.
To be on the safe side, it’s advisable to ask an experienced orthodontist about using whitening toothpaste when wearing braces.
Flossing During Orthodontic Treatment
If you have been fitted with braces, you should continue to floss at least once each day, making sure you get beneath the wires and between the brackets.
Waxed floss will glide between teeth more easily and is less likely to catch on your braces. A floss threader can make it simpler to floss between each tooth without getting the material caught under the wires.
If you have large spaces between your teeth, an interdental brush that goes between teeth might work better than flossing. An oral irrigator provides a further option for places that are difficult to reach.
Try to floss just before going to bed to get rid of any bits of food missed by brushing.
How to Floss Effectively When Wearing Braces
While flossing if you have braces is challenging, with practice you can get the hang of it. Try the following steps.
- Avoid unwaxed floss. Floss that hasn’t been waxed can become caught in braces and shredded.
- Use the right length of floss – about 45 centimeters.
- Work the floss properly. Carefully thread the floss beneath the main wire of the braces before gliding it between two teeth. Don’t snap the floss – simply guide it up and down gently against the side of each tooth
Helping Kids to Brush and Floss During Orthodontic Treatment
Many parents find it difficult to get their children to brush and floss but it becomes even more of a problem when they are wearing braces.
If you have young kids with fixed braces, it’s essential to teach them how to brush and floss properly and to be careful to avoid damaging their braces. The Academy of General Dentistry (AGD) stresses the need for children with braces to avoid sticky candy and hard foods.
Younger children undergoing orthodontic treatment may well not have the dexterity to brush and floss correctly, so you may need to give them a helping hand.
Snacking on too many sugary and starchy foods can result in plaque accumulating around your child’s braces, which can stain or decay teeth or lead to gum problems.