Orthodontics and Braces Care: A Maintenance Guide
For teenagers and adults alike, the prospect of braces can be frustrating, yet ultimately rewarding.
Spending time in the orthodontist’s chair is only the first step to a lasting, lifelong realignment of teeth, and you’ll come out of the experience with an improved smile and better oral health. But, for the process to be worth it, you need to put in the effort associated with braces maintenance at home. Here’s what good daily care looks like and how to take care of braces the right way.
The basics of braces care: practice a good oral care routine
Brushing, interdental cleaning and rinsing form the foundation of basic oral care. Unfortunately, general brushing - and especially cleaning between teeth - can be difficult with orthodontic appliances like braces, positioners, retainers, and elastics. It’s important to spend the energy to adapt your daily routine and create an oral care ritual in ways that improve the effectiveness of orthodontics care.
With braces, you need to make it a point to brush at least twice every day for at least two minutes each time. Whenever possible, brush your teeth directly after meals to keep food from getting stuck under the brackets and in the spaces between wires and your teeth.
Use a soft-bristled brush like our GUM® ORTHO Toothbrush to reach deep into the spaces between teeth and along the gumline. If you struggle with the toothbrushing technique, you might want to consider using an electric toothbrush with an oscillating brush head. You can also choose a specifically adapted orthodontic toothbrush. Remove any elastics or removable orthodontic equipment from your mouth, then follow these special toothbrushing tips:
- Hold your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle toward the bracket to be sure to also reach below the gumline and apply the roll technique. Click here to observe the correct technique.
- Insist on brushing above, behind and below the brackets and the wire as well, to unstick stubborn food particles and remove plaque.
For toothpaste, remember to choose an option that has both fluoride and plaque control like the GUM ORTHO Toothpaste and avoid whitening products, including whitening toothpastes. Since you’re wearing braces, the parts of your teeth covered by the metal or ceramic brackets won’t be touched by the whitening products and this can lead to discoloration over time.
You can also use plaque-disclosing tablets to help this process. These tablets help show you where you have a buildup of plaque. Simply chew one and rinse your mouth, and you’ll see stained areas on your teeth, representing the areas of your mouth that have plaque. Brush immediately after using the tablet and until you’ve completely removed the stained area.
Don't forget to brush your tongue!
Interdental cleaning is a much more difficult endeavor with a mouth full of orthodontic appliances. Thankfully, with the right tools, you can simplify the task. Here are two tricks to make interdental cleaning with braces a breeze:
- Interdental brushes enable complete cleaning. For instance, they allow you to clean between two braces, behind the wire: move the interdental brush up and down on both sides of each bracket and move it along the wire when moving from tooth to tooth, moving it up and down while doing so.
- If you use floss, a floss threader - like the GUM Eez-Thru® Floss Threaders - may help guide the passage of the floss behind the wire: cut 35-40 cm and use the threader to guide the floss between the wiring. Pull it through gently to nest it between teeth and appliances. Once the floss is behind the wires, gently push it between two teeth and floss up and down, and back and forth. Floss up from the gumline to the chewing surface. Unthread the floss from the back of your teeth as you go tooth by tooth through your mouth. An expanding thread for more contact with the tooth surfaces and more plaque removal may also be helpful.
It takes time and effort to clean between your teeth with braces, but it’s a crucial step to keep your teeth and gums healthy. For teenagers and adults on-the-go, interdental picks or flossers are a great option for cleaning teeth after a meal. It’s good practice to stash a travel pack in a purse, backpack, locker or anywhere else on-hand for an instant solution.
End your oral care routine with a fluoride mouth rinse to keep your mouth clean, fresh, and healthy and give the extra protection it needs. For better efficacy, rinse your mouth before you go to sleep, so the anti-plaque agent and fluoride can work undisturbed throughout the night. Check our GUM ORTHO mouthwash.
Specific kinds of appliances
Many adults choose to get their braces on the lingual side of their teeth. That is, the braces are on the back of your teeth, near the tongue, and therefore invisible to others. Most of the same techniques mentioned above are appropriate for lingual braces, but it’s important to pay special attention to the back of your teeth, which are more difficult for you to see in the mirror.
Another popular choice for adults these days is a clear aligner. When you remove the aligners, you can clean your teeth as normal, but don’t forget to clean the aligners themselves! Give them a rinse in water after each use. Brush them gently with clear soap and rinse them in cool or lukewarm water. There’s no need to use harsh chemicals on them.
For children, it can be common to use a pre-orthodontic removable appliance, such as a retainer. After each meal, a child should remove their retainer and brush it with lukewarm water. Your child should also use a soft-bristled brush to gently scrub away plaque and other debris.
Go the extra mile: use wax and avoid certain foods
The steps above are the basics, but many orthodontists will recommend going a step further to care for your teeth and gums while you’re wearing braces. Thankfully, there are a lot of proactive orthodontic braces that require very little effort. With that said, here are some ways to be mindful of your appliances.
You may experience discomfort and irritation when wearing orthodontic appliances because of the repeated friction of braces on oral mucosal tissues. Orthodontists recommend using orthodontic wax to form a protective barrier over brackets and wires to improve your comfort level during orthodontic treatment.
Avoid certain foods
Your orthodontist will go over a list of foods you should avoid as soon as you get your braces. During the time you have your braces, be mindful of the foods you eat - especially ones on this list. As a rule, anything sticky, chewy, crunchy, or especially hard is off-limits. Hard candies are particularly problematic when you have braces and can lead to pain or damage to your appliance.
You should take great care to avoid sugary foods and drinks even if you don’t wear orthodontics, but it’s especially important if you do. Sugary foods and drinks can cause major staining and enamel decay around each bracket - especially if brushing habits haven’t caught up to the heightened standards of life with oral appliances. Sometimes, these stains are permanent, and the lesions will need treating.
Stay motivated by a beautiful and healthy smile
Getting braces seems like a hassle - especially for teens or even adults who may already have anxiety or insecurity. There’s a lot of work required to keep braces clean and well-maintained, and you’re also going to spend plenty of time in the orthodontist’s chair getting adjustments and checking on progress. Make sure it’s not for nothing! Good at-home care and mindful practices will make the inconvenience, time and frustration all worth it when your braces come off to reveal a magazine-caliber smile.
While you learn to care for your braces, you’re also gaining another unseen benefit: the peace of mind that comes with a thorough, careful oral care ritual. These good habits will continue long after your braces are off, to help you preserve the smile you’ve worked hard to create.
Want more tips on how to take care of braces? Looking for products to make braces care easier? The right tools can make a huge difference in the result you see once the braces come off. Have a look at our GUM ORTHO product range or contact us to get more suggestions on braces maintenance and everything else you need for a vibrant healthy smile.