Traditional braces that correct misaligned or crooked teeth are now more discreet than ever, being sleeker, smaller, and providing a greater level of comfort. However, the braces and wires can still pose difficulties when it comes to brushing and flossing your teeth.
Wearing braces calls for a more rigorous routine of brushing to prevent food particles and bacteria-laden plaque from building up on both the brackets/braces and your teeth. The longer this debris remains trapped on your teeth, the higher the risk of developing dental problems including decay, staining and gum tissue infections.
While brushing twice a day is the standard guideline, the American Dental Association (ADA) recommends that if you wear braces it’s important to brush after each meal, including after snacks and dinner.
How to Brush When Wearing Braces
Rinsing out your mouth with water before brushing your teeth will help to loosen any bits of food trapped in and around your braces.
With a fluoride toothpaste, brush the entire gum line at a 45-degree angle and then position the brush head on the top of the brackets, angling down to clean the top of each one. Realign your toothbrush to clean the bottom of the bracket, angling upward. Make sure to clean each tooth at the gum line as well as brushing below and above the brackets.
Rinse again with a mouthwash when you’ve finished brushing. An antiseptic mouthwash containing fluoride will help to prevent infection and lessen irritation that may be caused by braces all the while reducing inflammation of the gums and cheeks.
If for some reason you’re unable to brush your teeth after eating, rinse your mouth out with water and then drink plenty of water to wash away at least some of the food particles.
Don’t Overdo It!
While regular brushing is particularly important if you wear braces, take care not to overdo it. Overbrushing (toothbrush abrasion) can result in receding gums and sensitive teeth. Up to one in five people is estimated to have caused damage through overbrushing, which can erode tooth enamel as well as push back the gums. Overbrushing can also lead to other dental problems such as cavities on the roots of the teeth and gum disease.
Whether you have braces or not, a soft-bristled toothbrush is the best option to avoid damaging your teeth and gums. An interdental brush can be used to clean around braces but you should brush gently to avoid damaging the wires.
How to Floss When Wearing Braces
Besides brushing after every meal, you should also continue to floss at least once a day, making sure you get between the brackets and under the wires.
Waxed floss is easier to slide between the teeth and less likely to snag on your braces, while non-wax floss can leave behind shreds. You might find that a floss threader makes it easier to slide between each tooth without catching the floss under the wires.
An interdental brush that goes between the teeth might work better if you have relatively large spaces between your teeth. An oral irrigator or water pik provides a further option for areas that are difficult to reach. And may in fact be the best way to clean in between the teeth when braces are on.
It’s also a good idea to floss just before bedtime to remove any food particles missed by brushing.
Braces and Whitening Toothpaste
Because keeping your teeth clean while wearing braces can be tricky, many people consider using a whitening toothpaste. You may have heard that when you’re wearing braces, you should avoid whitening toothpaste because uneven coloring will be revealed when the braces are removed. However, the consensus among dental experts appears to contradict this viewpoint.
Whitening toothpastes contain enamel-strengthening fluoride and polishing agents that make stain removal more effective. So, in that respect they ‘whiten’ your teeth however unlike bleaches, they don’t alter the color of your teeth.
The healthcare wing of Colgate-Palmolive, the U.S.-based global consumer products company, says some whitening toothpastes can get rid of 80 per cent of surface stains despite the presence of braces.
Helping Children with Braces to Clean Their Teeth
If you have children with braces on, it’s vital that you teach them how to brush their teeth properly. You should also encourage them to take precautions to prevent damage to the braces. According to the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD), activities to avoid include eating chewy, sticky sweets and hard, crunchy foods. Additionally, eating too many starchy and sugary foods can cause plaque to accumulate around the brackets, this can stain the teeth, causing cavities and gum disease.
Getting kids to floss is a challenge for many parents, but it becomes more of a challenge when they have braces. Younger children with braces probably won’t have the dexterity necessary to floss properly, so you need to give them a helping hand. This can take a long time, so, if your youngster doesn’t like to sit still for any length of time, position them where they can watch a favorite TV show or listen to music while you help them to floss their teeth. And again if flossing is just going to be too difficult or too time consuming, consider a water pik or water flosser to get the job done. They are relatively easy to use, effective at cleaning in between the teeth and in fact remove food and debris that floss sometimes misses.
If you’re unfamiliar with some of the terms we’ve used, here’s a quick guide:
Enamel – Tooth enamel, the hardest substance in the body, is the protective outer layer of a tooth.
Floss threader – Floss threaders are designed to thread dental floss under braces, fixed bridges and dental implants.
Fluoride – A natural mineral that helps to prevent cavities by hardening the teeth enamel.
Interdental brush – A small brush designed for cleaning between the teeth where a regular toothbrush cannot reach.
Oral irrigator /Water Pik or water flosser– A device that uses pressurized water to clean plaque and food debris from between teeth and around the gum margin.
Plaque – Remaining food and bacteria that latch onto teeth. Plaque can destroy teeth and gum tissue.
Waxed floss – Floss with a covering that makes it easier to get between teeth.