How to Take Care of Teeth During And After Braces
It’s hard taking care of teeth with braces on! Did you know most orthodontic patients have to wear braces for 1 to 3 years? That’s why good dental care is so important during braces.
If you or your child is going through orthodontic treatment, this post will tell you:
- How to keep your teeth and mouth healthy while the braces are on.
- What you can do after they come off so you don’t undo all those months of diligent care.
While you have braces…
Poor oral hygiene during braces can have a lasting effect on teeth and gums. Taking good care of teeth with braces might take a little extra time, but it’s worth it!
Without proper care, plaque starts to accumulate on teeth, especially around the brackets. If that plaque isn’t removed, it mixes with the food you eat to create acids that eat away at your teeth and can cause cavities! Here’s my advice:
Consider investing in an electric toothbrush. It’s so easy for food and bacteria to accumulate in those nooks and crannies, which is why it’s important to brush twice a day. Electric toothbrushes can work great to help make the job of brushing with braces easier. You may also want to try a special mini-toothbrush called a proxabrush in addition to regular brushing.
Floss every day. Flossing with braces is notoriously difficult, but it’s really important. Tools like like floss threaders or Super Floss can really help. There are also these great little tools called Platypus Flossers that patients with braces can use on-the-go. I still always recommend string floss (like threaders or Super Floss) first, but Platypus Flossers are easy and handy.
Use a mouth rinse. Gums can get very inflamed during orthodontics (both from the body's reaction to metal brackets, which some people seem to be more sensitive to, and due to more plaque that collects around brackets). Great brushing and flossing is so important, and a mouth rinse (like Listerine or Crest Pro Health) can also help to support gum health.
Ask your dentist about prescription-strength toothpaste. For patients who are at a higher risk of developing cavities, a prescription-strength fluoride toothpaste (available for purchase from your dentist, or as a prescription) can help prevent cavities during this harder-to-clean time, and prevent those unsightly round white spots from forming around brackets.
Rinse with water often. It’s not as thorough as brushing and flossing, but it’s the next best thing. Take a big sip of water and swish it around in your mouth for several seconds after every meal and anytime you eat or drink something with a lot of sugar.
Don’t skip dental checkups. It’s extra important to get regular dental cleanings and exams when you have braces. In fact, for kids who are having trouble keeping teeth clean at home, coming to the dentist for cleanings every 3-4 months during orthodontics might be in order.
Wear a mouthguard during sports. Being able to continue with sports is really important to many kids (and many adults who play sports too!). It’s perfectly fine to continue to play most sports with braces, as long as you wear a mouthguard. You may need to get a specially designed one that can fit comfortably over braces.
When braces come off, there are two major challenges many people deal with:
- They have tooth stains and plaque build-up around where the braces were
- Their teeth don’t stay straight
Here’s what I recommend:
Get a thorough dental cleaning and exam. I always recommend a trip to the dentist after braces come off. If plaque or stains have accumulated on teeth during braces, a professional cleaning can remove them.
Use a soft toothbrush. Did you know that people who have had braces are more likely to suffer from gum recession later on? I recommend gentle brushing with a soft-bristled toothbrush to avoid any unnecessary wear on gums. Electric toothbrushes are great for preventing gum recession too, because they’re gentler on gums.
Wear that retainer as directed. No one likes wearing a retainer, but orthodontists aren’t kidding when they say it’s important. Even after wearing braces for years, teeth have a tendency to move back to their original position. It can take years for teeth to adjust to their new position.
There are 3 types of retainers orthodontists may make for patients depending on the situation:
- Hawley retainer (removable) - an acrylic base with metal wires
- Clear plastic retainer (removable) - similar to Invisalign
- A fixed bonded retainer (not removable) - a wire attached directly to your teeth
Carry a retainer case. Most retainers need to be removed for meals. It’s tempting to simply wrap retainers in a napkin when it’s time to eat, but retainers in napkins notoriously get thrown away accidentally.
Clean retainers often. Many types of retainers can be cleaned daily with a regular toothbrush and toothpaste. Denture cleaners and special retainer cleaners can also be used for most removable retainers. Think of it this way: you don’t want to put a dirty, bacteria-filled retainer over freshly brushed teeth.
Dental Health Is Extra Important During Orthodontic Care
Maintaining a healthy mouth is extra important during and after braces. Getting regular cleanings and talking to your dentist can make all the difference.
If you or your child has braces (or just got them off) I can help make sure you’re doing all you can to get the best possible result from your orthodontic treatment: a beautiful, healthy smile, you’re proud of.
Call my office at (540) 298-6696 or contact us online to schedule an appointment.