Traditional fixed braces to reposition crooked teeth are today less noticeable, more comfortable and sturdier than ever. Nevertheless, to achieve the best outcome from your orthodontic treatment, there are certain things you need to remember when wearing braces.
The wires and brackets of braces make brushing and flossing tricky but it’s essential to maintain good oral hygiene to prevent food debris and bacterial plaque accumulating on both your braces and your teeth.
You also need to bear in mind that the brackets and wires of braces are fragile. Common problems with braces include brackets that break or become loose and wires that snap or start to protrude. These issues are typically caused by chewing hard or sticky foods.
So, another thing to remember when wearing braces is that you need to be careful about what you eat. While having to avoid some of your favorite foods may be frustrating, the good news is that wearing braces may steer you toward a healthier diet that’s good for your overall health as well as your teeth and gums.
Other problems that may arise with braces include damage from aggressive or incorrect brushing or flossing.
You also need to be extra careful to avoid accidents – a facial injury can damage your braces as well as your mouth. Nail biting and chewing a pencil or pen can also damage your braces.
Remember that regular check-ups with your general dentist are important when undergoing orthodontic treatment.
Brushing When Wearing Braces
Wearing braces demands a more demanding routine of brushing1. The longer bacteria stay trapped in your teeth and braces, the greater the risk of problems such as tooth decay, staining and gum infections.
While brushing twice a day is the standard guideline, the American Dental Association2 (ADA) says that if you wear braces it’s important to brush after each meal, including snacks. Rinsing your mouth with water before brushing your teeth will help to loosen any particles of food stuck in and around your braces.
Remember to follow these steps when brushing while wearing braces:
- Using fluoridated toothpaste and a soft-bristled brush, clean each tooth at the gum line and above and below the brackets, including the biting surface.
- Place the brush head above the brackets, angling down to clean the upper part of each one.
- Position your brush at the bottom of each bracket and clean by angling upward.
- Rinse your mouth with an antiseptic or antibacterial mouthwash containing fluoride.
If you can’t brush your teeth after eating, rinse your mouth with water and then drink plenty of water, which will help to flush away food particles.
Although regular brushing is especially important when wearing braces, don’t overdo it. Overbrushing can lead to sensitive teeth and gum recession. Whether you wear braces or not, a soft-bristled toothbrush is best to avoid damaging your teeth and gums.
Flossing When Wearing Braces
Because braces make it harder to brush your teeth properly, flossing becomes even more important. The right technique of flossing when wearing braces will help to prevent issues such as cavities, gum inflammation, and bad breath.
As well as brushing your teeth after every meal and snack, you need to continue to floss at least once a day, making sure you get under the wires and between the brackets of your braces.
Unwaxed floss may shred in your mouth but waxed floss is easier to glide between your teeth and less likely to get caught on your braces. A floss threader can make the job easier. An interdental brush might be a better option if you have pronounced gaps between your teeth, while an oral irrigator can clean areas that are difficult to reach.
It’s a good idea to floss just before bedtime to remove any food debris missed by brushing and help to break down any remaining plaque build-up.
Don’t try to rush your flossing – it can take up to three times longer when you have braces.
Foods to Avoid When Wearing Braces
To avoid damaging your braces, you need to refrain from eating foods that are hard, chewy, sticky or crunchy. These include snacks such as:
- Potato chips.
- Sticky or hard candy.
- Corn chips.
- Hard cookies or crackers.
- Hard bread rolls.
- Beef jerky.
It’s also important to avoid chewing ice or gum while wearing braces. In fact, it’s best not to chew on ice at all.
Foods You Can Enjoy While Wearing Braces
While you should avoid many snacks while you’re in braces, there are many foods you can enjoy, including:
- Soft cheese.
- Mashed potatoes.
- Steamed vegetables.
- Soft, cooked rice.
- Tender meats.
Drinks to Avoid When Wearing Braces
While wearing braces, it’s particularly important to protect your teeth from sugar overload, which can damage your braces as well as your teeth.
Sugary – and acidic and carbonated – drinks can weaken the adhesive that attaches the brackets of your braces to your teeth. As well as increasing the risk of a bracket popping out, this can also allow bacteria to get under the bracket and start creating a cavity.
Avoid sodas, other carbonated drinks and fruit juices, all of which are often high in sugar and can be acidic. Research shows that diet sodas are just as harmful as regular sodas in weakening tooth enamel. Water and plain milk are your best options.
If you wear removable Invisalign aligners, as opposed to conventional braces, you should take them out if you must have a sugary drink, which can get inside the aligner and bathe your teeth in sugar and acid.
When wearing braces, it’s also advisable to cut back on sugary foods such as cake and ice cream.
Remember to Follow Your Orthodontist’s Advice
The main thing to remember when wearing braces is to follow your orthodontist’s instructions and advice. This will enable you to get the most out of your orthodontic care and give you the best chance of achieving the smile of your dreams.
The American Dental Association says good oral healthcare at home is imperative when wearing braces, and it stresses the importance of brushing and flossing as directed by your orthodontist to remove bacteria and plaque.