Whether you are a teenager or an adult, caring for your teeth with braces on can be challenging. Having poor oral hygiene during your orthodontic treatment can lead to significant problems with decay, gum disease or discoloration of your teeth.
This appears as chalky white marks on your teeth which can progress into brown marks and even cavities. This happens if you are not cleaning your teeth properly and bacterial plaque is being left behind. The bacteria produce acids which begin to dissolve the minerals that keep your teeth strong and hard. The discolorations will be even more noticeable when the braces are removed, which could affect your smile.
If the demineralization progresses, it leads to dental cavities. Cavities can form anywhere on your teeth, around the brackets or between your teeth if you aren’t flossing. Cavities lead to tooth pain and infection if not treated with a dental filling.
Otherwise known as gum inflammation or gingivitis. This condition is caused by not removing the bacterial plaque thoroughly. Plaque and tartar that build up on your teeth irritate your gums and trigger your body to have an immune response. Gingivitis is reversible with improved oral hygiene, but if left unchecked the condition will progress into periodontitis. This destructive gum disease breaks down the bone that supports your teeth and leads to tooth loss.
The usual cause of bad breath is poor oral hygiene. Your braces could be harboring food particles and bacteria which will cause a foul odor.
Since the braces and wires trap more food and plaque than your natural teeth would, it takes additional effort to keep everything clean.
Using a fluoridated toothpaste, make sure you brush all of your teeth at a 45-degree angle towards the gumlines. Brush the brackets by first angling the toothbrush down to brush the top of your brackets. Then angle your brush up to brush the bottom of your brackets. If you have trouble removing plaque with a manual toothbrush, there are electric toothbrushes and heads designed specifically for braces. It is a good idea to brush after each meal and before bed. Bring a toothbrush with you to work or school, to clean your teeth during the day. Brushing might take longer than your usual two-minute brushing time when you have braces on.
This critical step needs to be done at least once a day. To floss with braces on, you need to use floss threaders or a type of floss designed to be threaded under the wire (example: Superfloss). There are also floss piks intended for use during ortho, with one thin end that can fit under the wire.
An antimicrobial mouthrinse helps to kill bacteria and prevent gingivitis when used in addition to brushing and flossing. Using a rinse that contains fluoride gives you the additional benefit of preventing cavities.
These can be useful to clean out trapped food from under the wires and around the brackets. They can also be used between your teeth if you have larger spaces.
During orthodontic treatment you may need more frequent dental cleanings. You and your dental professional can decide on an interval that works best for you.
Your dental professional will be happy to review any techniques with you if you are having difficulty cleaning around your braces. Practicing good oral hygiene during your orthodontic treatment will be worth the effort when you are rewarded with a beautiful straight smile in the end!