Brushing with Braces

The Problem

One of the common fears about orthodontics is that if proper brushing methods are not used, braces can contribute to tooth decay. This is because the bands or bonded brackets on your teeth, along with the attached tubes and wires, tend to create a little shelf around the outside of the teeth. This shelf makes it harder for you to clean the spaces between your gums and the attachments with your toothbrush. Additionally, foods that would typically slide across the teeth and gums during chewing if you did not have braces, can no longer do their usual job of helping to clean the teeth and exercise the gums. And, if you fail to get the teeth clean and exercise your gums, the gums swell, making teeth cleaning even more difficult. Continued neglect of teeth and/or gum areas can certainly result in decay. However, with proper care, this is a problem that can be avoided.

The Solution

Frequent Brushing:

  • It’s best to brush within five minutes of eating. For this reason, we recommend carrying a folding or travel toothbrush with you. At the very least, after you’ve eaten something particularly sweet, rinse your mouth with clear water.

Careful Brushing:

  • First, brush back and forth across and between the wires and gums on your upper and lower teeth to loosen the food particles.
  • Next, brush as if you had no bands on:
    1. Start on the outside of the upper teeth with bristles at a 45-degree angle toward the gum on the “shelf.” Scrub with a circular motion, two or three teeth at a time using 10 strokes, then move on.
    2. Do the same on the inner surfaces of the upper teeth.
    3. Scrub the chewing surfaces last.
    4. Start on the outside of the lower teeth and repeat the process. Remember to direct the brush at an angle toward the gum.
  • Rinse your mouth and your toothbrush. Look in a mirror to see if you missed any places. Check the little half-moon spaces of teeth between the bands and gums as well as the space between the molar tubes and gums. If you see any areas you missed, go back and clean them.
  • When you have finished, the bands and wires should be free of ALL food particles as well as the soft white coating (plaque). Your braces should appear clean and shiny.
  • Please note that any type of liquid oral hygiene product can indeed be very helpful, but only AFTER a thorough brushing. It is NOT a substitute for brushing, but is useful for removing particles the brush can’t reach.