Taking Care of Your Braces

You already know that maintaining good oral hygiene is important for everyone — but when you're having orthodontic treatment, it's even more critical. Why? Because, while the appliances (such as braces or clear aligners) you may need to wear during treatment are very effective in correcting misaligned teeth, they can also trap food particles easily. Keeping your teeth (and your appliances) clean is a little harder — but you can do it! Here's a look at why good oral hygiene is so important during orthodontic treatment, and some tips on how you can keep it up. Dr. Urbaniak also invites you to view our practice's in-house video covering the proper care of your braces https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MTnraAWcjrc.

Diet and Decay

Controlling your diet involves avoiding foods that could increase your risk of developing tooth decay. That means cutting down or eliminating foods with an excess of sugar, like soda, sweets, and ice cream. It also means avoiding foods that could easily become stuck in your braces, like toffee, gum, licorice and caramels.

Foods that are very hard or extremely sticky can also cause physical damage to orthodontic appliances. Certainly braces or retainers with broken wires or loose brackets aren't working to straighten your teeth! You should avoid foods like hard candies or nuts, beef jerky and hard pizza crust. Keep eating healthy foods like carrots and apples — but cut them into bite-sized pieces first! And don't chew on ice, pencils, or your nails: these habits can cause damage to your appliances, and even result in chipped teeth!

Daily Maintenance

How to Clean Teeth With Braces

Brushing:

While most people brush their teeth twice a day, orthodontic patients should brush at least three times a day to make sure that no food or plaque remains on their teeth or braces. Because there is more in your mouth to brush when you have braces, you should plan on brushing 4 minutes each time. Make sure that you brush every surface of each bracket, particularly above the top brackets and below the bottom brackets. Brush all sides of your teeth including the inside, and biting surfaces. Gently brush your gums too! Look carefully at your teeth and brackets and if they are not clean and shiny, brush again. 

 Dr. Urbaniak strongly encourages the use of a Sonicare electric toothbrush. If you choose to use a handheld toothbrush, either a soft-bristle or a bi-level toothbrush (one with longer bristles on the edges and shorter ones in the middle) can be effective in plaque removal — even with braces. For hard-to-clean areas, try an interdental brush, or proxabrush. The small bristles of this special tooth-cleaning aid, which is shaped like a pipe cleaner, can get in between wires, brackets and teeth. With gentle and persistent effort, it's possible to reach into the smallest nooks and crannies, and control plaque buildup.

Flossing:

Flossing with braces can be tedious, but you won’t regret it. First of all, if you don’t floss you will develop the gum disease gingivitis, which makes your gums sensitive, red and swollen, resulting in a “gummy” smile. Plus, your teeth will move a lot faster with healthy gums. Flossing daily is recommended to make sure that the plaque in your mouth doesn’t have the chance to infect your gums. Nothing, including mouthwash or a water pick, can replace flossing. Even the best brusher in the world needs to floss daily to have healthy teeth and gums. 

How to Floss:

Floss threaders are an essential part of flossing with braces. In order to use this handy tool, simply loop a piece of floss through the threader. Use the stiff end of the threader to direct the floss under the wire. Once you have the floss under the wire you can floss normally, gently sliding the floss along the side of each tooth between the tooth and the gums. Make sure you floss between all of your teeth.

How to Clean Clear Aligners
How to Clean Removable Retainers

If you have a retainer, it should be brushed daily, the same way you brush your teeth. We may also recommend using a cleaning solution — but never put hot water on your retainer, because it can distort the soft plastic and make it unusable! And always keep it in a case when it's not in your mouth.

Professional Care

Even though you're seeing an orthodontist regularly, that doesn't mean you don't need to see your regular dentist — in fact, it's just as important as ever! While we're focused on improving your bite and alignment, your dentist will make sure your teeth stay healthy with thorough examinations, cleanings and preventive care. Your orthodontic treatment is a team effort where everyone — our office, you, and your family dentist — has an important role to play. And the team has just one goal: giving you a winning smile.

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