A Complete Oral Hygiene Guide For Orthodontic Treatment With Braces
How Should I Care For My Teeth & Braces During Orthodontic Treatment?
Your investment in orthodontic treatment is probably the best value with the highest return possible compared to any other investment available in the world. Usually the first motivation for treatment is improving cosmetic appearance, which is certainly monumental for self confidence and many other advantages in business and the world in general. Of course you knew that already and it’s probably why you chose (or are considering) to invest your valuable time and efforts in orthodontic treatment.
However, your bite alignment that will be/have been/are being corrected to produce that increased cosmetic appeal have major invisible crucial impacts on your oral health. Furthermore, your oral health is central to your overall health in general. Therefore, you have made huge improvements for your health that will never be seen but will likely provide you a far superior quality to the rest of your life.
We assume you already understand good oral hygeine and are already committed to caring for your teeth and oral health in general because you are advanced to the point of knowing the importance of orthodontics.
Nevertheless, you probably have a lot of very good questions about what to expect when wearing your braces and what specific information you need to care for your teeth and braces while in treatment?
Dr. Hunt, Jr. and our team at Hunt Orthodontics reminds you that it is just as important to maintain your regular oral-dental hygiene routine while you’re wearing braces as you did before proceeding with treatment.
To address some oral hygiene challenges while wearing braces, we have prepared this guide for you.
Preventing tooth decay is always at the center of our overall health in general. There is a bit more work while wearing your braces because of the tendency to have food trapped under the wires and between the teeth and the brackets.
The good news is that it is not difficult. Our hygiene routine with braces only takes a small amount of extra time and your reward is literally a treasure. There really is not a better investment that pays off like this. You are guaranteed to earn a priceless improvement for your efforts.
Proper oral hygiene is easy and you will agree that it takes only a small amount of work and not much time compared to the personal satisfaction of enjoying your smile each and every day for the rest of your life! You will gain your best oral health along with the joy of smiling confidently every day. It is very rare to be able to create something that is so valuable for ourselves to benefit from every single day. This is a special power that you gain and can use to share with others… for your whole lifetime.
You probably already have developed these good oral hygiene habits but, for our younger patients lets check and make sure we help you to make it a snap. Make it easy to do oral care it right. Ask anybody who ever skipped or wasn’t helped to learn how and every single one will say… THIS IS IMPORTANT… DO NOT PAY THE HORRIBLE PRICE of finding out after it is TOO LATE! Make sure you have good oral hygiene habits. Once you have your routine and do it every day, you will enjoy the benefits for life.
We will help you develop daily oral hygiene practices for your new braces. It is not much to add, but it takes a small amount of extra time during treatment. It’s fast and easy. We want to eliminate cavities (tooth decay) and gum issues, not only during your time in braces but, for a healthy mouth for the rest of your life. We all know how crucial this is with or without braces. You will be way ahead of the pack by fine tuning your oral hygiene habits now. Let’s eliminate all the problems that come as a result from incorrect habits. It is so easy to prevent problems and enjoy great health throughout life.
Naturally, you know that brushing your teeth each morning and night, as well as after you eat, will help keep your mouth healthy and clean during the months you wear braces. But there are a couple of extra steps you can take to make sure you keep your teeth and braces are in very good health.
Here are a few tips to keep your teeth healthy while wearing your braces:
1. Eat Braces-Safe food
Keeping your teeth free from decay is immensely helped with a healthy diet. Foods that are high in sugar or starch cause more plaque which is difficult to remove during your brushing. The recommendation is to not eat too much of these treats for good health. But, when you do just be sure to brush, and use your Water Pik as recommended by Dr.Hunt.
Then, there are certain foods that should be avoided while wearing your braces. First, Sticky foods like caramel and gum can get stuck in your braces and be difficult to remove during brushing. Next, hard foods such as nuts and candy can bend wires or even break a bracket. Foods that are firm or hard to bite into like apples, carrots, or corn on the cob should be prepared differently (cut into pieces) just for the time we are in our braces treatment. As much as we like to many of these snacks, crunchy treats can harm your braces.
Things like chips, ice, popcorn can also bend or break your braces. Here is two ways to handle risky foods for braces. Just avoid these foods during treatment. But we’re not saying we have to take all of the fun out of parties for our time in braces… so if we’re occasionally eating these foods we can prepare them before putting it in our mouths. Say like slicing an apple instead of biting into the whole thing. Then we have to chew very slowly and very carefully.
Keep in mind that you will be taking a risk of damaging your braces by eating risky foods during treatment. So, if you can’t resist, please try to keep it to a minimum and with extra care. This way you will not have extra repairs and you will get done with your braces in the shortest time possible and not incur additional expense.
One thing to remember is that these small sacrifices are temporary and your results from orthodontic braces treatment is amazing… plus, your healthy bite and your new smile… is yours for your lifetime.
Foods such as bananas, mangoes, milk, water, poultry, and pasta all tend to be low in enamel-busting acids.
2. Proper Brushing
You want to place your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle against the gums in order to clean the whole tooth, and brush gently in the area between the wires and the gums. Use a softer toothbrush with fluoride paste for best results. Rinsing every day will help, too.
Rinsing with water and Listerine after ingesting sugar is always important, but especially important when you have braces as you need to disinfect the entire mouth, including those spots under the braces where your brush can’t always reach.
3. Ask About Special Cleaning Tools
There are also special brushes, or other tools, to get under and clean your braces. You can also find many of these items at your local pharmacy.
Tools: the inter-dental brush is one we highly recommend for all of our patients to use.
This small brush is used to clean between the teeth while it can also be used to clean underneath and around your wires and brackets. This should be a gentle process.
This brush reaches areas which your a regular toothbrush can’t reach, making sure you remove large pieces of debris before you brush with your normal toothbrush.
Before your regular brush, use a mirror to check and make sure you haven’t missed anything.
4. Regular Teeth Cleaning
It’s important to keep your routine appointments with your dentist and dental hygienist for a thorough cleaning twice a year or as directed. The exact frequency of these visits will be up to your dentist as some patients may need more regular cleaning than others.
As long as you practice good oral hygiene and follow these basic tips, you should have no problem keeping your teeth from scarring while you wear braces.
And of course, Flossing!
Why is flossing so important?
Flossing is essential to the health of your teeth and gums when you’re wearing braces. Because braces may hold food, sugars and liquids upon eating, it is very important to keep on top of your brushing and flossing, as well as visiting our office for regular adjustments.
While we know it’s tough enough to get kids to floss daily without braces, that battle becomes even tougher when braces are involved. Remember that by not flossing, you will become more prone to cavities between the teeth and gum disease during your treatment.
How To Floss With Braces
Flossing with braces can be tricky, but it’s possible. Dr. Hunt, your general dentist, or your dental hygienist can help you become more comfortable and adept at flossing your teeth during the months you wear braces.
Braces Flossing Tips
- Use Tools Provided by Our Office. A floss threader is a small, plastic needle that will help you floss between the wires and your teeth. Thread a 12-to-18-inch piece of floss onto the needle, and use the needle to get the floss easily behind the wires.
- Flossing Under the Wires. Once the floss is behind the wires, use your hands to manipulate the floss. Move it up and down along the wires to remove food particles.
- Flossing Between Your Teeth. Floss between your teeth as you normally would without braces. Move the floss up and down between your teeth, using a clean section of floss for each tooth.
- After You Finish Flossing. Dr. Hunt definitely suggests that you use a Water Pik and proxy brush after you finish brushing. Either of these tools will help remove any loosened food particles and plaque to ensure that your teeth are clean.
- Gently Massage Your Gums When flossing, remember to gently massage your gums in between the teeth. You will find that flossing with braces takes extra time, as you will have to weave the floss through each bracket. When flossing, there should be no signs of blood. If you see blood, you are not flossing enough or properly. Bleeding is Gingivitus!
- Using an electric toothbrush is also a good idea to massage your gums before or after flossing as electric toothbrushes can help remove any harmful bacteria that are lingering in your mouth. And don’t forget to add a flouride mouthwash to your routine to break up any bacteria that has formed. A good flouride mouthwash will help keep your teeth and gums in good shape during your treatment. Listerine is preferred.
Continue Good Oral Hygiene Habits After Removing Braces
Good oral hygiene habits you use while wearing braces will help you achieve the beautiful smile you and the Hunt Orthodontics team have been working toward.
Once your braces are off, it may be tempting to slack off on the brushing and flossing. Don’t let yourself fall into any habits that will have a negative impact on your oral health or the attractive smile you waited and worked for throughout the months you wore braces.
See your general dentist for regular cleanings, and continue to brush and floss your teeth 2-3 times each day.
Should I use a Water Pik during my treatment? Most Definitely
Foods That Are Safe for Braces
It is important to remember that braces are only effective when they are properly cared for. Food selection is an integral part of the process.
Certain foods, for example, are better suited for individuals who have braces, as opposed to hard and sticky foods that can cause damage. So what types of foods should you or your kids eat to protect dental appliances?
The best foods to eat with braces are those that are not high in sugar and do not require excessive chewing.
For breakfast, try eggs, yogurt, bacon, wheat toast, or oatmeal.
Lunch may steer toward a banana rather than an apple, a salad without nuts, and a glass of water. If you are looking for some after-school snacks for your kids, consider baked tortilla chips with salsa and guacamole, or try string cheese with fruit.
Even with braces, it’s easy to enjoy a healthy, nutritious lunch.
For example, make a panini on whole wheat bread with slices of turkey deli meat, a piece of Swiss cheese, and tomato slices. Spread 1 tbsp. of mustard or mayonnaise on the bread before toasting the sandwich in a panini grill. Serve the panini with ½ c. low-fat cottage cheese and a sliced pear or apple for a balanced meal. Then grab a pudding cup or some JELLO for dessert.
Wash it all down with water containing a lemon wedge or all-natural fruit juice. Make sure to brush your teeth or rinse with mouthwash after lunch to wash away sugars and food residue that can get trapped in braces and cause decay.
A healthy dinner can include most types of vegetables, so long as they are cooked to an appropriate softness. Pair that with a lean protein, such as fish or chicken, and follow up with dessert. Just be sure to brush afterward!
As braces begin to adjust the alignment of the teeth, our office will periodically tighten them to continue the alignment process. After tightening occurs, the teeth may be sore and sensitive to certain foods. During this time, it is best to eat soft foods. Examples include:
- mashed potatoes
- ice cream
- cottage cheese
Foods to Avoid When Wearing Braces
There are a few food categories to avoid when you have braces.
No sticky candies, watch out for popcorn, and steer clear of chips. They stick to the metal in your braces, and can potentially break wires or individual braces. For example: bubblegum, candy bars, caramel, licorice, fruit roll-ups, and Starbursts should be avoided.
Many of these foods also contain high levels of sugar, which can cause plaque build-up if not brushed away properly.
Also, be wary of hard foods that can harm your orthodontic appliances. Avoid eating hard taco shells, chips, Rice Crispy treats, hard candy, beef jerky, and popcorn. Some healthy foods, such as carrots, apples, corn on the cob, and nuts, are hard on braces. To eat these foods safely, cut them into smaller pieces before eating.
Remember that certain habits may be harmful to your braces. For example, crunching on ice cubes may be a reflexive response when you’re enjoying a cold beverage, but this can significantly harm your braces and extend treatment time.
To stay on the safe side, Dr. Hunt and our team at Hunt Orthodontics recommend you drink beverages without ice or use crushed ice whenever possible.
Anyone who wears braces – whether fixed or removable – should avoid excessive snacking and should aim to eat a healthy and balanced diet. So, to make it easy, keep this short list of foods to avoid always in hand or try to memorize it. They could cause damage to the braces and slow your progress.
Avoid the following products:
- hard candies
- certain raw vegetables (for example, carrots)
Regardless of what types of foods you eat with braces, it is important to keep the crevices between the teeth and around the braces very clean. That means brushing and flossing after meals to prevent the build-up of plaque and risking decay. Not only can failing to do so damage the teeth, but it can also cause discoloration.
What about Drinks?
Dr. Hunt and our team at Hunt Orthodontics encourage our patients to limit their intake of sports drinks. Sports drinks usually contain lots of sugar.
A recent study published in General Dentistry states that energy and sports drinks contain so much acid that they begin destroying teeth after only five days of consistent use.
According to the Academy of General Dentistry, an estimated 30 percent to 50 percent of U.S. teenagers consume energy drinks and as many as 62 percent consume at least one sports drink per day.
The high acidity levels in the drinks erode tooth enamel and the result is irreversible damage.
The enamel erosion ultimately makes teeth more susceptible to bacteria and that can lead to hypersensitivity, staining, and tooth decay.
Tooth decay is the most common chronic childhood disease, five times more common than asthma. It’s also preventable with proper care.
If you live in the Greenville and/or Travelers Rest Areas, Orthodontist Dr. Hunt and his team can help identify early signs of erosion and offer solutions on how to prevent further damage and more serious problems from occurring.
What about Vacations?
Going on vacation? Remember these simple tips!
If you are wearing braces and are planning a vacation, our team at Hunt Orthodontics would suggest that you be prepared.
We put together a list of items that will be handy to have with you at all times while you are out of town. They include:
- Toothpick, floss pick, or other interdental cleaners
- Travel toothbrush
- A water bottle or a mini bottle of mouth rinse
- Orthodontic wax to help with discomfort from protruding wires
- A small mirror for examining any possible issues in your mouth
Putting these items together in a “braces/oral hygiene kit” may be wise. You may even buy pre-made braces kits. Please ask us for more information.
If you happen to be on vacation and experience a problem with an accident with your braces and have trouble reaching our office due to time zones or timing, we suggest going online and searching for orthodontic practices in your area. Most orthodontists will lend a helping hand to another orthodontic patient and get him or her out of pain or discomfort.
Please try to remember that we have an emergency care page on our website for you. This is for your general knowledge but can be to help you particularly if you are traveling out of the area and for whatever reason are uncomfortable or in need of help of any kind. https://huntortho.com/about-orthodontics/emergency-care/
Once again we suggest avoiding the following foods to prevent broken brackets and/or wire distortion especially while you are on vacation:
- Chewy, sticky, or gummy food
- Apples, pears, and other whole fruits (cut fruit into wedges before consuming)
- Bagels and hard rolls
- Corn on the cob
- Hard candies
- Hard cookies or pretzels
- All varieties of nuts, including peanuts, almonds, and cashews
Finally, if you are wearing clear aligners and happen to lose your tray, don’t worry! Simply put in either the previous tray or the next tray and contact us as soon as you get home!
Follow these tips and you can have a worry-free vacation!
Braces hygiene is all about habits and preparedness.
Following the tips presented in this article, will help you keep your braces and teeth in excellent health during the length of your treatment.
If you need assistance you have any questions, please give us a call. We are glad to help you with to answer any questions you need answered! If something is not clear with the information you would like or you have any question about any part of your treatment… PLEASE call us and ask. Please do not be shy to ask ANY question. Only your best possible care is acceptable to Dr. Hunt. He asks that you please let us know if you are ever uncomfortable with your braces and/or treatment in anyway.
Patients wearing braces should use a Water Pik. It can be difficult to weave through those wires and brackets as you brush and floss during your treatment.
We ask all of our patients to use a Water Pik to flush out food and other particles and bacteria stuck between their teeth as the water can reach behind the metal wires and hit spots where your floss simply cannot reach. Some people (usually older) suffer from gum disease and also find Water Piks quite effective because of their ability to flush out bacteria from inside any deep pockets.
Not a substitute for Flossing
Water Piks are friendly to braces and are also gentle on the gums. They are less likely to cause bleeding for people with sensitive teeth or gums. But as many benefits as they may have, Dr. Hunt and our team want you to know that Water Piks should never be used as a substitute for flossing. Practice both for the best oral care.
Though they are great tools for helping improve oral health while you are in treatment, they are just not a good enough tool on their own to keep your mouth and gums gingivitis- and decay-free.
Water Piks are also incapable of removing plaque from teeth as effectively as floss can. While water picks rinse the sticky bacteria off your teeth, flossing is actually more effective as it actually scrapes the bacteria off of your pearly whites.
An Important Closing Message From Dr. Hunt
Our patients must receive the best care possible for both you and your orthodontic treatment… and the combination of how we care for you as our South Carolina neighbors. Your health is not a commodity Where a four may be OK in some places… in some endeavors… but, anything below BEST is NEVER good enough here. No, that is not acceptable at all for Hunt Orthodontics. This is your health! Your care absolutely must ALWAYS result in a 5 star plus rating for your complete treatment experience. Once again please know that there is no question you need be shy about asking. It’s our duty and pleasure to provide you with an extraordinary experience of care and comfort. Welcome to Hunt Orthodontics.
Dr. Donald W. Hunt, Jr. DMD, MSD