Cleaning Your Teeth and Braces
When you have braces, it is more important than ever to brush and floss regularly. Food and bacteria collect around bands, brackets, and wires, and can cause stains and cavities, not to mention unpleasant odors - so be sure to do your part in keeping your teeth clean!
To help keep your teeth and gums healthy, we also recommend that you see your regular dentist for a professional cleaning every 3 months. Patients who do not keep their teeth clean on their own may require more frequent visits.
Adult patients who have a history of gum disease may also need to see a periodontist during orthodontic treatment. Please be aware that your dental insurance may not cover the cost of cleaning appointments at 3-month (or more frequent) intervals; however, the benefits are well worth the extra investment.
You should brush your teeth at least 3 times a day (after breakfast, after lunch or immediately when you arrive home at the end of the day, and before bedtime). In addition, we recommend a daily fluoride rinse (Phos-Flur®) to minimize the chance of cavities or decalcification (permanent white spots on the teeth in areas where plaque is not removed). Other aids, such as an electric toothbrush (Sonicare®), Waterpik®, and small interdental (or proxa-) brushes should also be considered. Proxabrushes are used to clean difficult-to-reach areas around your wires, brackets, and bands. They are especially helpful in removing food and plaque along the sides of the braces.
Brushing teeth while in braces requires more time and diligence than brushing without braces. Be prepared to spend at least 2 minutes each time you brush. Be sure to brush on the top and bottom of, as well as in between, brackets; along gum lines on both the front and back of each tooth; and on the chewing surfaces. Also, don’t forget brush your tongue!
When you have braces, you should floss once a day. Flossing with braces is easier with the help of a floss threader or SuperFloss®. Start by threading the floss under the archwire. Using a small section of floss, wrap one end around your left and the other end around your right index finger, and gently slide the floss between two teeth toward your gums. Wrap the floss tightly around the tooth on the left side and move the floss up and down several times, making sure that the floss reaches the gumline. Wrap the floss around the tooth on the right side and do the same. Repeat these steps at all contact points between your teeth. You may also consider using a "Platypus" orthodontic flosser.
If you are not cleaning your teeth properly, you may notice one or more of the following
- Redness along the gumline
- Swollen and puffy gums
- Bleeding when brushing and flossing
- Plaque (food and bacteria) around your brackets and near your gumline