Spring break season is in full swing and many of my El Dorado Hills braces and Invisalign patients and their families will be taking advantage of the occasion and hitting the road (or the sky). As someone who enjoys traveling myself, I know being on vacation can throw off your routine. However, it is important to continue to take care of your appliances when you’re away from home so your treatment stays on course and you avoid having to deal with an orthodontic emergency while you’re supposed to be relaxing and having a blast. To help you do that, here are some tips for traveling with braces or Invisalign so you can focus on soaking up your vacation.
Pack an Invisalign or Braces Travel Kit
Having everything you need on hand will help you stick to your oral hygiene routine and manage any appliance mishaps. If you wear Invisalign, pack your Invisalign case, your last set of aligners, your next set of aligners if you’ll be changing them while you’re away, a removal tool (aka golf tee), your bite, squeeze and hold tools, toothbrush, fluoride toothpaste and dental floss, as well as mouthwash if that’s part of your regimen. If you have braces, put together a braces travel kit that includes the aforementioned oral hygiene basics, as well as orthodontic wax for any irritation or rubbing, interproximal brushes and orthodontic flossers to let you floss with ease. If you’re new to braces, you may also want to include an over-the-counter pain reliever just in case you experience any sensitivity.
Make Brushing and Flossing a Priority
It can be tempting to just fall into bed and pass out after a long day of traveling or sightseeing. Yet, you do need to brush with braces and Invisalign more frequently than you normally would and flossing is crucial too. Invisalign wearers should floss once daily and brush their teeth in the morning and before bed, as well as after meals and snacks. This prevents any food or drink residue from getting trapped against the teeth when you put your aligners back in. Don’t forget to brush your aligners too so that you can keep them as clean as when you took them out of the bag (you wouldn’t put your sweaty Lululemon gym gear back on without cleaning it would you?). Since brackets and wires harbor food and plaque, it’s just, if not more, important to brush with braces after eating in addition to your morning and evening brushing. If you forget to bring your toothbrush, at the very least, rinse your mouth out really well with water or mouthwash and then brush when you get back to where you’re staying.
Don’t Take a Vacation from Your Invisalign Clear Aligners or your Elastics
Maybe you’re eating a lot of meals out and snacking throughout the day. Or, you like to take your aligners out for pictures. Both scenarios are totally fine and one of the biggest advantages of Invisalign is that the aligners are removable. However, keep in mind, your elastics and your aligners are programmed to achieve specific tooth movements. So, you have to be dedicated, otherwise, you’ll lose those gains and it might set your treatment back requiring either more time with elastics, or going pack to previous aligners. That means wearing your aligners for a minimum of 20 to 22 hours per day.
Know What Not to Eat With Braces and Avoid Those Foods
It’s important to know what not to eat with braces and to stay away from those things so you don’t damage your appliance, which would be especially annoying when you’re far from home and the team at Jeffrey Kwong Orthodontics. Avoid really sticky, hard and chewy foods, such as caramel, popcorn, nuts and whole, raw apples. Don’t despair. There are tons and tons of foods you can still eat with braces so focus on what you can eat and not what you can’t.
Time Your Appointments Right
It can be a good idea to schedule a visit with us a couple days before you leave for your trip if you have questions or you’re due for a check-up. Let me know that you’ll be traveling. If you’re wearing braces, scheduling an adjustment the day before you leave probably isn’t a great idea because you can feel sensitivity, and very commonly after an appointment, spaces might close, teeth move, and as such, the wires may need to be trimmed.
Familiarize Yourself With DIY Ways to Handle an Orthodontic Emergency
A true orthodontic emergency is rare but there are some minor issues that can crop up. Thankfully, you can deal with most of them on your own until you’re home and able to come in for an appointment and you’ll still be able to have fun on your vacation. Here are a few common problems and solutions:
- Irritation – If you just started wearing braces, you can experience irritation from the brackets and wires. Simply break off a little piece of orthodontic relief wax, roll it between your fingers to warm it up and stick it on the part of your braces that’s bothering you. ProTip! If you’re in a pinch, sugar-free gum or silicone ear plugs can also do the trick! You might want to try using a salt water rinse too. Mix ½ teaspoon of salt in a glass of warm water and then swish it around your mouth before spitting it out. You can repeat as needed.
- General Tenderness – If you just got your braces put on and your teeth feel a little sensitive, stick to soft foods and cold drinks until the discomfort subsides. Since you’re on vacation, I’d say that qualifies as the perfect time to indulge in some ice cream. You can also take an over-the-counter pain reliever if necessary.
- Lost Invisalign Aligner – As I said, Invisalign aligners are programmed to make specific tooth movements, so if you lose an aligner while you’re away, I recommend moving to the next aligner, and wearing it for double the time. With 22 hour per day wear and daily bite, squeeze and hold exercises for 10 minutes, you should be in good shape. Remember, we’re relying on you to know what a good fit of the aligners is, and we’re looking for them to fit like spandex on your teeth, e.g. no space between the aligner and your teeth.
- Poking Wire – If you’re traveling with braces and experience a poking wire, it can be uncomfortable. Thankfully, there are different options to fix it. Use the eraser end of a pencil or if it’s long enough, you might be able to trim it with a clean nail clipper (dirty ones also work, but please choose a clean one). If it’s still bothering you, put some orthodontic wax or wet cotton on the wire to lessen irritation.
- Broken Bracket – If the bracket comes off all the way, save it and bring it to your next appointment. You can use orthodontic wax to stop any irritation. If the bracket is in the front of your mouth, slide it back to its proper place before covering it with wax. If it’s the last bracket at the back on the top or bottom and the wire is bothering you, use a clean nail clipper to trim the long wire.
- Broken Appliances – If you have a banded appliance (an appliance that is attached with rings around your teeth) break, you might need the help of a local orthodontist. I belong to a few nationwide study clubs and there’s a good possibility I might know someone who can help you. Reach out to our office to see if I know anyone in the area.
Happy and safe travels! As always, if you have any questions while you’re traveling with braces or Invisalign or about your treatment in general, call or text the office at 916-933-0532 and we’ll be happy to help. If you haven’t started the teeth-straightening process yet and you’re ready to get a smile you love, book a free consultation at Jeffrey Kwong Orthodontics today.