When it comes to taking care of your teeth and gums, there’s no substitute for a good dental hygiene routine. While this is true for everyone, it’s especially important for orthodontic patients. The brackets, bands, and other components of orthodontic appliances can hide bacteria and trap food particles. This can quickly lead to a build-up of bacteria and plaque if you aren’t brushing and flossing effectively. These feed on any sugar that enters your mouth and will produce acids that can be damaging to your teeth and gums. It’s time to get back to the basics, keep reading to brush up on oral hygiene for orthodontic patients.
Cavities and tooth decay can be bothersome enough on their own, but if they’re left untreated, they can also lead to several secondary issues. Here at Kovacs Orthodontics, we’ve seen how these problems can affect a patient’s treatment plan. If your oral hygiene is poor, the total treatment time can be extended and the final results may be affected. Braces have even had to be removed temporarily to allow a dentist time to resolve serious issues with a patient’s mouth before orthodontic treatment can be resumed.
When you fully understand how important your oral health is in achieving a straighter smile, you’ll want to ensure you’re doing everything you can to take care of your teeth. Let’s take a look at how orthodontic patients can get back to the basics of dental hygiene below!
Brushing with braces
Once your braces are in place, you may find it necessary to adjust how you brush your teeth. The same technique won’t work as well anymore, since there are brackets and wires to deal with. You’ll need to brush them more often, too. Brushing 3-4 times a day for at least two minutes each time keeps food particles and plaque from building up in between the braces and teeth.
While there’s no particular toothbrush we recommend for braces, one with soft bristles is best. Be aware, however, that manual toothbrushes can sometimes leave food particles and plaque behind no matter how thorough your brushing is. For this reason, we highly encourage you to use an electric toothbrush for the extra power it provides.
As with toothbrushes, no specific toothpaste is needed for brushing teeth with braces. Fluoride toothpaste is recommended, however. We also suggest using mouthwash daily to rinse around your brackets and help flush out any food particles that may still be trapped after brushing and flossing. To correctly brush your teeth with braces, refer to the following guidelines.
- Hold the toothbrush against the front sides of the teeth, and move the toothbrush in small circular motions, following the regular curve of the gums and teeth as you go from tooth to tooth.
- Brush each tooth for several seconds, carefully and slowly, making sure all food particles are reached and removed along the gum line, between the braces, and on the surface of each tooth.
- Remember to brush the biting surfaces of the teeth, the back sides of the teeth, and behind the molars. And don’t forget to brush the roof of your mouth and tongue before rinsing.
- To properly clean the brackets, angle the brush head against them, and don’t forget to brush thoroughly under the wires as well!
Once you’re done, inspect your teeth and braces carefully to make sure they’re spotless. Take a look in a well-lighted mirror to see if you’ve missed anything, and check for any loose or broken brackets. If you find a problem, let us know and Dr. Kovacs will advise you on whether or not it needs to be checked out or repaired.
Flossing with braces
Flossing can be frustrating even at the best of times, but it’s essential to do it right every night before bed when wearing braces. Even if it seems like you’ve brushed away every bit of food, braces can easily trap tiny particles of it in places that are hard to see and reach.
The good news is, there are plenty of products available to make this a much easier process! Floss threaders are a great example. This reusable tool has a stiff end that allows you to easily floss between the brackets and under the archwire. To ensure you’re flossing correctly with braces, give these simple tips a shot.
- Slide a piece of floss about 18 inches long under the wire, above the space between the two teeth. Insert the floss halfway through, and then hold both ends of the floss. Carefully slide the floss up and down a few times between the teeth. When the tooth is clean, you’ll be able to hear a slight squeaking sound.
- Floss the gum line with the floss in the shape of a “C,” and below the gum line with a soft up and down motion. Be careful not to apply too much pressure when flossing around the archwire.
- Gently remove the floss, thread it under the next wire, and repeat the steps above.
Flossing this thoroughly may take up to 20 minutes in the beginning, but your speed will increase with practice. Hang in there and it’ll become second nature in no time! Your teeth will thank you for all that effort.
Oral hygiene for Invisalign patients
Because Invisalign aligners are designed to be removed before you eat and drink anything other than water, you also take them out before brushing your teeth. That makes good oral hygiene a breeze! There are some basic guidelines to follow to ensure your teeth and aligners stay in good shape, however. Clean hands are key to good health, so always wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before putting your aligner in. Pay careful attention to your fingernails and fingertips since these come into the closest contact with your mouth and aligners.
You’ll need to care for your aligners when they’re out of your mouth, too. Although it can be tempting to toss them onto the nearest surface when you remove them, always place your aligners in a sealed container when you’re not wearing them. You can also leave them to soak in a cleaning solution. This protects them from germs and also prevents you from accidentally throwing them away (which happens more often than you may think!)
Once you’re done eating or your teeth are brushed and flossed, wash your hands again and rinse your aligner well before putting it back in your mouth. Remember that aligners must be worn for 20-22 hours every day throughout the treatment process and switched out for the next in the series every 1-2 weeks. When you stick to these guidelines, your Invisalign aligners can work just as well as braces, leaving you with a healthy smile that feels good and looks great!
Give your smile some TLC with Kovacs Orthodontics
By following the guidelines and tips we’ve listed above, you’ll be able to keep your mouth healthy while we work on straightening your teeth! If you have any questions or concerns about orthodontic care, our expert team is always happy to walk you through the ins and outs of your treatment plan. Want to learn more about being proactive with the health of your smile? Get in touch with us today to schedule a FREE consultation or follow-up appointment with Dr. Kovacs!