While brushing and flossing your teeth are always important oral hygiene habits, they become absolutely essential when you wear braces.
As bacteria in your mouth consume bits of food, they make acids that eat away at your tooth enamel and cause cavities. Bacteria cause other problems too, from bad breath to gum disease. The less food bacteria can consume, the fewer dental problems you’ll experience.
Removing food can be a particular challenge if you wear braces, though, since food can get stuck in wires and brackets. Because cleaning your teeth is so important, our Boca Raton, FL orthodontists are sharing here some of our favorite tips for brushing and flossing with braces.
If you have any questions about brushing and flossing with braces, let us know when you visit Smiles by Dr. W and Dr. R at either of our two locations: Boca Raton or Coral Springs, FL. Or call us at 561-327-6775.
In the meantime, here are our top six tips for brushing and flossing with braces.
Tip No. 1: Use the Right Toothbrush
Either an electric or a manual toothbrush will work fine for brushing teeth with braces. It’s important to get a brush with soft bristles and a small head that will be easy to maneuver around wires and brackets. We recommend using a toothbrush with the ADA (American Dental Association) Seal of Approval, since that means it’s been tested by the ADA for safety and performance.
You’ll probably also want to replace your toothbrush more frequently than usual, as the bristles can get frayed pretty quickly on your brackets and wires.
Tip No. 2: Cover All Tooth Surfaces
When brushing with braces, it’s important to cover all your tooth surfaces. We suggest rinsing your mouth out with water before you start brushing to get rid of any loose particles. Remove any elastics, bands, or other removable parts of your orthodontia.
Hold your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle. Use circular motions to clean the front and back surfaces of your teeth and switch to back-and-forth motions for the chewing surfaces of your upper and lower teeth. Make sure you brush between the wires and your teeth.
You should brush for at least two to three minutes. If you’re using an electric toothbrush, some of them have timers. Or you can use the timer function on your smartphone instead.
Tip No. 3: Consider Using Special Tools
Cleaning around brackets and wires can be tough. You can try some special tools that may help. Interdental toothbrushes have small tufts of bristles that look almost like a pipe cleaner. They can more easily get into the spaces under your wires and around bands and brackets. Just be gentle when using one so you don’t damage your wires.
You might also want to try an oral irrigator, often called a water pick. It shoots a small stream of pressurized water at your teeth, so it can help dislodge bits of food that become trapped in tight spaces. The oral irrigator isn’t a substitute for a toothbrush or dental floss, though, so you’ll want to use it only as a supplement to those tools.
Tip No. 4: Don’t Forget About Flossing
Flossing with braces can seem especially tricky. How do you get the floss under the wire of your braces? We suggest using waxed floss, which will be less likely to get caught in your braces. And also use a floss threader, a device that looks like a big plastic sewing needle and makes it easier to floss under your wires. You pull one end of floss through the threader and then push it under the wire. Then you can grab the floss on either end and slide it up and down.
We also recommend flossing before turning in for the night. That way, you’re less likely to miss any food particles that have gotten stuck in your teeth during the day.
Tip No. 5: Skip Whitening Products
While you are wearing braces, don’t use whitening toothpaste or whitening mouthwash.
Whitening products will only work on the places they touch. So you could have uneven color when your braces get removed. Areas under wires and brackets likely won’t match the rest of your tooth surfaces.
Tip No. 6: Avoid Problematic Foods
You can make brushing and flossing with braces easier by avoiding problematic foods. It’s a good idea to cut back on sugary foods and beverages like soda as much as possible. Don’t chew gum or ice. And avoid foods that are sticky or otherwise tough to chew, like apples, caramels, corn on the cob, and popcorn.