The Ultimate Guide to Caring for Your Braces

By January 9, 2020 October 21st, 2020 Community

It’s so important to take great care of your braces and your smile during orthodontic treatment. Why? Well, firstly, your teeth move most effectively in a healthy oral environment. Also, getting cavities, regularly breaking your brackets, or having other dental issues could set your treatment time back. Plus, no one wants to walk around with food caught in their braces or a wire sticking out of their mouth because they damaged their appliances. Caring for your braces and making your oral health a priority during your treatment will really set you up for success.

Foods You Can and Cannot Eat With Braces

You can still eat most of the things you love when you have braces. However, there are some foods you’ll need to avoid in order to prevent breaking your appliance and having to come in for a comfort or repair appointment. Hey, I know our office is super fun and all but you have better things to do than spending time getting your braces fixed. In order to keep your appliances safe, here are some of the foods to avoid with braces:

  • Chewy foods: bagels, licorice, protein bars
  • Crunchy foods: popcorn, chips, hard taco shells,
  • Sticky foods: gum, caramel, candy-like Starburst
  • Hard foods: hard candy, nuts, popcorn, hard rolls (unless torn into small pieces), ice
  • Foods you have to bite directly into: corn on the cob (off the cob is fine), apples and carrots (cut them up instead)

Aside from just staying away from the above-mentioned foods, you should also refrain from chewing on hard things like pencils or pens. As for food you can eat with braces, you can eat pretty much whatever you’d like as long as it’s not overly chewy, crunchy, sticky, or hard. Just be sure to break or cut everything into bite-size pieces and chew with your back teeth. If you want options, check this list of soft food for braces patients

Choosing the Best Toothpaste and Toothbrush for Braces

Speaking of eating with braces, the brackets and wires tend to trap food and plaque. Whenever we eat, the bacteria in our mouth feed on the sugar and starches from the food. If we don’t brush the gross stuff away, it mixes with our saliva and forms plaque. The plaque releases acids that eat away at the tooth enamel, which will first leave permanent chalky scars 😔and will eventually lead to cavities or worse. Since braces are sort of like an obstacle course in your mouth that you need to maneuver around, thorough brushing is more important than ever. 

My patients sometimes ask about the best toothbrush for braces. You want to use a soft-bristled toothbrush with a small head. Some people prefer a manual toothbrush for braces because they feel like it gives them more control. However, electric and sonic toothbrushes are also great options and some brands have specially-designed orthodontic brush heads. Choosing the best toothbrush for braces really boils down to going with what you feel comfortable with and what helps your mouth feel the most sparkling clean. In addition to technique, it also comes down to the amount of time you spend, so having a brush that lets you know when your two minutes are up can be helpful. 

Aside from choosing a toothbrush for braces, you’ll also want to think about the toothpaste you use. Opting for a fluoride toothpaste will help keep your enamel strong and reduce your risk of tooth decay. Just keep in mind that your brackets are bonded to your teeth so using a whitening toothpaste isn’t a great idea. Since parts of your teeth are covered, the toothpaste can’t reach them and when your braces come off, you could be left with a two-toned smile. For that reason, I typically tell my El Dorado Hills braces patients to choose a fluoride toothpaste with the ADA seal of acceptance. If we’re struggling with seeing the plaque or working with technique, I recommend Plaque HD toothpaste so that it can light up those germs green so that you can see them. It’s always easier to hit a target you can see, and this disclosing toothpaste is amazing for day-to-day use.

How to Brush Your Teeth With Braces

Now that we covered choosing a toothpaste and toothbrush for braces, let’s talk about how to brush your teeth with braces. First, squeeze some toothpaste on your toothbrush. Then, flip your lip up so that you can get a clear view of your gums. Starting on your upper teeth, position your toothbrush so the bristles angle right where the teeth and gums meet. Using gentle, circular motions, brush along the gum line and then work your way down the tooth, getting the front, chewing surface, and behind the tooth. Make sure to get around and between your brackets and wires too. Give each tooth individual attention and brush around those back molars as well.

When you’re done with the top teeth, repeat the process on the bottom teeth but starting at the gum line and working your way up this time. Top off your routine by also brushing your tongue and the roof of your mouth. Brush for at least two minutes each session and brush in the morning, after meals and snacks, and before bed. If you’re at school or work and forget to bring your travel toothbrush along with you, rinse your mouth out really well with water after eating and then brush your teeth as soon as you get home. 

If you feel like you need a little help getting around you brackets, you can add an interproximal brush, sometimes called a proxy brush or interdental brush, into the mix and use that to get in the tight spaces before brushing with your regular toothbrush. It’s also an amazing tool for dislodging food from your braces when you’re on the go. 

Choosing the Best Floss for Braces

Flossing is my favorite hobby, said no one…ever. When you have braces, it can be even more irksome until you get the hang of flossing around your hardware. This is why you should choose the easiest flossing tool for you. If you can floss quickly and easily, you’ll be more likely to do it. I recommend purchasing orthodontic flossers, like Platypus flossers, because they are designed especially for orthodontic patients and fit under your arch wires to make flossing a breeze. They’re especially helpful to use when you first start treatment and you’re still getting used to flossing with braces. You can also try floss threaders, which help you adapt regular dental floss so it can go under your braces, but be forewarned, it will take longer to floss this way. However, it’s certainly a better option than trying to use regular old dental floss without any braces flossing aids.

How to Floss Teeth With Braces

Whether you use an orthodontic flosser or a floss threader, floss with braces once daily just as you did before you had your tooth jewelry. When it comes to how to floss teeth with braces, simply get the floss under your wire and in between any two teeth. Floss up the side of one tooth, all the way up to the gum line, and then down the side of the same tooth. Then do the same to its neighbor before moving on to the next set of teeth. Floss around those back molars too. I promise, in a few weeks, flossing with braces will become like second nature and if you need help, we’re always more than happy to demonstrate at our office.

I would highly, like super highly recommend you also try using a Waterpik for braces. A water flosser will not replace regular flossing but you can do it in conjunction with conventional flossing to get your mouth extra clean. A lot of the hygienists and dentists I work with swear by it and it’s perfectly safe to use with braces. Learning how to use a Waterpik with braces (or without them for that matter) can lead to some splashing and water around your sink but just like with dental floss, you’ll acclimate quickly and it can be a helpful tool.

Dental Visits When Wearing Braces

You’ll still need to visit your general dentist when you’re wearing braces. As an orthodontist, my focus is on diagnosing, preventing and treating malocclusions, which are problems with the positioning, spacing, or alignment of the teeth and jaw. Your general dentist is the doctor in charge of your overall oral health. They perform cleanings and checkups to prevent or treat tooth decay, gum disease, and other oral health concerns. Since your teeth will shift into place more effectively and quickly if your mouth is healthy, you should visit your dentist every six months, or as often as they recommend. In addition to doing exams, they also have the special tools and techniques to get rid of hardened plaque around your braces that you can’t eliminate with a toothbrush at home. If a problem is spotted at a dental visit, I can coordinate with your doctor in order to keep your smile journey on track.

Protecting Your Hardware (and Your Smile!)

Another important aspect of caring for your braces is keeping them safe from damage due to trauma. If you play sports or do any physical activity that could result in a blow to the mouth, you should wear a mouthguard. It will keep your teeth from being knocked out, chipped or loosened, while also protecting the soft tissues of your mouth from getting cut by your hardware, and your braces themselves from being broken. Another often overlooked factor is that if you collide with an opponent while wearing braces and you’re not rocking a mouthguard, you can cut your opponent too. So, keep yourself, other players, and your braces safe by wearing a mouthguard even if it’s not technically required (ahem, basketball and baseball).

Comfort Care Tips

If you do forget to wear a mouthguard or you eat a food that’s off limits and your braces get damaged, don’t panic. But also don’t just assume it’s fine and wait until your next appointment. Instead, call the office and we’ll let you know if we need to get you in for a repair. In the meantime, prevent further damage and keep yourself comfortable with a few home remedies:

  • If a wire pops out or is poking you, gently use the eraser end of a new pencil or a clean cotton swab to push it under your braces and out of the way. Then, roll a small piece of orthodontic relief wax into a ball between your fingers. Dry the wire off with a piece of tissue or gauze and then place the wax over it to stop any poking. No wax? No problem. You can also cover it with a piece of wet cotton, sugar-free gum. or a silicone ear plug (weird but it works!).
  • If a braces bracket is broken and comes off the wire completely, save it and bring it with you to your repair appointment. If there’s a long piece of wire leftover and it’s poking you, you can very gently clip the excess wire using disinfected nail clippers. Then, you can use wax to prevent any irritation. If the bracket comes loose in the front of your mouth and is just kind of hanging out there, carefully slide it back to its correct position and cover it with wax.

Now that you’ve been filled in on everything you need to know about caring for your braces, if you’re ready to kick off treatment, schedule a free consultation at Jeffrey Kwong Orthodontics today!

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