Plaque needs to be thoroughly removed from your teeth a couple of times each day, and when you have braces, it’s even more important to remove plaque. All the brackets and wires in your mouth create places for plaque to hide. Plaque is sticky and made up of food, saliva and lots of bacteria, and when plaque attaches to your braces and teeth, it causes cavities, swollen gums, bad breath, and permanent stain marks on your teeth.
When You Should Clean Your Braces
If possible, you should brush your teeth after every time you eat. If you can’t actually brush with a toothbrush, then at least rinse your mouth out with water. Swoosh the water around really well and spit the water out. If you can, carry a travel toothbrush with you.
Brushing twice per day is important, but you should also clean between your teeth with floss at least once every day. After flossing, brush your teeth and braces thoroughly until they’re clean and shiny. The best time to do this thorough cleaning is at night, right before you go to bed.
Also, make sure to continue to see your dentist regularly every six months, or more often if your orthodontist recommends it. Your dentist and hygienist will not only make sure your mouth and teeth are clean, but will also make sure all your braces, brackets and wires are intact and working effectively. They can also address any questions you have regarding brushes, floss, other oral hygiene aids, and tips for cleaning braces in any area of your mouth that you find difficult to reach.
How to Brush Teeth with Braces
Brushing your teeth when you have braces isn’t that much different than brushing your teeth without braces. You still use a soft bristle toothbrush or power toothbrush. You still brush for a full two minutes. You still replace your toothbrush every three months, or sooner since the brackets on your braces might make the bristles wear down a little faster. You still brush around all the parts of your teeth, including the fronts, sides, backs, and chewing surfaces. And you still brush your tongue and roof of your mouth.
An end-rounded bristle toothbrush works well for brushing braces, and your dentist might prescribe fluoride toothpaste to help you fight tooth decay even more. Brush gently but thoroughly. If your braces look clean and shiny and if you can see the edges of the brackets clearly, you’ve done a good job! Make sure to rinse your mouth after brushing with water, or with a mouth rinse. Ask your orthodontist for a recommendation.
How to Clean Between Teeth with Braces
Having wires that connect your braces from tooth to tooth makes flossing a challenge. But it can be done. You just need to take your time, be careful and get under the gum line. A floss threader may help. It is a tool that allows dental floss to get underneath the archwires easily. There are a lot of other interdental cleaners that might be even easier for you to use. Ask your orthodontist for a recommendation.
The Negative Impact of Poor Oral Hygiene
Your teeth and smile will be straighter and healthier with braces. Your braces can’t damage your teeth, but poor oral hygiene can and that’s why we stress the importance of brushing and flossing when you have braces. As long as you maintain good oral habits, your mouth will be happy for a lifetime. Brushing, flossing and seeing your dentist for a cleaning every six months will prevent problems associated with poor oral hygiene. Most poor oral hygiene problems affect people whether they have braces or not, but some problems are bigger when people with braces don’t brush and floss like they should.
Potential Hygiene Issues with Braces:
Gingivitis, also called gum disease, is the first stage of periodontal disease. It’s usually painless, but signs like bleeding, or swollen and puffy gums are indicators that you have it. This happens when plaque builds up around the gum line, so make sure to massage your gums lightly when you brush, as well as floss well along the gum line.
If not treated, gingivitis can lead to periodontitis, infection and inflammation in the gums that spreads to the ligaments and bone that support the teeth. The gums start to pull away, forming gaps or pockets between your teeth that allow more plaque to accumulate.
Decalcifications, sometimes called “white spots,” are permanent stain marks around your braces. Lines and spots from decalcification remain on your teeth for life, so the best way to avoid them is to not let them develop at all. And the best way to do that is to brush, brush, brush!