Braces will result in a beautiful smile, but making sure that smile remains a healthy one is equally important. An important part of the orthodontic process is proper tooth care. Braces increase the likelihood of plaque buildup because the brackets and wires attract food debris and create a shelf around the outside of teeth that make them harder to clean. Plaque can stain teeth and wear away tooth enamel. Follow these tips to keep your teeth in tip-top shape.
- Use a soft toothbrush. Cleaning the top part of your teeth between your brackets and gums is essential. To properly clean the enamel, toothbrush bristles must touch the gums. Pick a brush with softer bristles to avoid irritating them and direct the brush at an angle toward the gums.
- Brush after every meal. Brace wires catch food debris, and brushing frequently will help prevent plaque. We recommend carrying a travel toothbrush. If you don’t have one available, then rinse with water for 30 seconds. An exception is brushing after eating acidic foods. You should wait 30 minutes to an hour before brushing after eating foods like oranges or sports drinks because doing so can soften tooth enamel.
- Do not use too much toothpaste. The foam created from toothpaste can actually make it more difficult to see plaque and debris. Start brushing your teeth with only a wet toothbrush, which will allow you to clean around the brackets and between wires. Instead of scrubbing, use a precise, picking motion. Then, add a pea-sized amount of toothpaste and continue cleaning.
- Brush your teeth for two minutes. Spend 30 seconds on each part of your mouth: upper right, lower right, upper left and lower left. Clean both the outer and inner sides of teeth. Set a timer to make sure you brush for a full two minutes.
- Use a floss threader or waterpik. One of the most challenging parts of tooth care in braces is flossing. Tying floss to a threader will make it easier to guide it through the wire. Use a saw-like motion to eliminate more plaque. Also, consider purchasing a waterpik water flosser. It cleanses with a stream of water and is a quick, easy way to floss.
- Clean with mouthwash at night. Look for an anti-cavity, fluoride mouthwash that will reduce tooth decay and protect enamel. Rinsing for one minute will help get rid of any remaining debris. After you rinse, check in the mirror for any missed places.
With these tips, and the expert care at the Jacksonville University School of Orthodontics, you will end your time in braces with straight teeth that are also healthy, bright and clean.