Keeping teeth clean while braces are on is not easy, but it is very important. Not cleaning your teeth well can lead to tooth decay, cavities, plaque and tartar buildup, gingivitis and stains on tooth enamel.
Give your teeth more attention.
The first thing you have to do when you have braces is to pay more attention to the care you give your teeth. Because the brackets and wires in braces make teeth harder to clean, you may need to spend a little more time each day taking care of your teeth. Note in the steps below how every little step you take can help.
Rinse your mouth after every snack and meal.
You may not be able to brush your teeth everywhere you go, but you can usually rinse your mouth out, even if it’s just with water. Because food particles so easily get caught in your braces and between teeth, a quick rinse with water alone or a designated mouth rinse will help. The more particles you can rinse away, the less chance they sit and contribute to tooth decay and to bacteria and plaque building up on your teeth. For best results, rinse your teeth after brushing too.
Change the way you brush your teeth.
With braces, brushing your teeth needs to be more focused and more gentle. You’ll also want to brush after every meal, if you can. Use a toothbrush with a compact (short/small) head and soft bristles. Be sure to brush the outside and inside surfaces of each tooth, gently brushing in circular motions along the gum line as well. Once you are finished brushing each tooth, go back and brush the braces, cleaning both the front and back of the wires.
Use an interdental brush.
Interdental brushes are your friends when you have braces (without braces too!). If keeping your teeth clean with braces seems complicated, simplify your regular oral care by brushing your teeth first with a regular toothbrush, then going back and cleaning your braces and between your teeth with an interdental brush. These brushes are specially designed to make it easier to clean the tight spots in your mouth. Check out DenTek® interdental brushes and other products that can help make teeth cleaning easier.
Try floss threaders if you prefer dental floss.
If you are used to flossing everyday and are afraid having braces might change that, floss threaders can help. Even though flossing might take more time, the threaders help push the floss through and around your braces so you can clean between your teeth.
Eat teeth-friendly and braces-friendly foods.
Last but not least, eat foods that are not as likely to get stuck between your teeth and braces. Avoid or limit the following:
• Anything sticky—that means no gum, gummy candies, taffy, fruit bars, caramel and sticky glazes
• Starchy foods like potato chips, corn chips and pretzels
• Hard foods like popcorn (kernels) and nuts that could break or damage your braces
• Other foods that can damage your braces like corn on the cob or any bread (like sourdough or French bread) with a hard crust
• Acidic or sugary foods and drinks—limit these since they already increase your risk of enamel damage and tooth decay
Also, cut up any foods that are somewhat hard to bite through, have a skin or may be difficult to eat. This includes apples, carrots, pizza, steak and more.
Talk to your dentist or orthodontist if you are ever unsure of what to do. They will be happy you want to take special care of your teeth and will give you advice that is tailored toward your lifestyle and needs.