Tips for Taking Care of Your New Braces
Making the choice to start orthodontic treatment can be life-changing! You're now officially on the path towards a healthy, beautiful smile.
It's an exciting time, but it also comes with a bit of a learning curve. As you get used to your new orthodontic treatment, you may need to make a few adjustments, but it'll become second nature before you know it.
Care & Maintenance
You know how important it is to brush and floss properly when you're wearing braces - but what's the best way to do that?
Let's start with the basic brushing tools: Either a soft-bristled brush or a bi-level brush (one that has shorter bristles in the middle and longer bristles at the edges) can be effective. Used carefully, an electric toothbrush can work just as well.
But be sure the electric brush is set to a moderate power level, and don't let its vibrations cause the back of the brush to hit the braces!
You should brush with a fluoride toothpaste at least two times per day (preferably after meals), for at least two minutes each time. Remember to brush all of the tooth surfaces: the front, the back, and the chewing surfaces.
Be especially careful to clean the areas between wires and teeth, and between brackets and gums - that's where food particles can easily become trapped.
Here's our suggested brushing technique:
- Beginning at the front surfaces, place the tips of the bristles flat against your teeth and use small circular motions to gently polish them clean.
- For areas between braces and gums, tilt the brush toward the gum line (down for the bottom teeth, up for the top) while keeping up the circular motions.
- Next, move on to the chewing surfaces of upper and lower teeth, using a firm back-and-forth motion.
- Finally, finish up by carefully brushing the back surfaces of the teeth the same way you did the front surfaces.
Special Brushing Tools
If you're having trouble cleaning the areas near brackets and wires, there are some special tools that may help. One is the interdental toothbrush. It has a small tuft of bristles that stick up all around, like a pipe cleaner.
Use it gently and carefully to clean the tiny spaces under wires and around bands and brackets.
Another special cleaning tool is the oral irrigator or "water pick." This device shoots a small stream of pressurized water at your teeth, which can help dislodge bits of food that become trapped in nooks and crannies.
While it's easy to use, an oral irrigator isn't a substitute for a toothbrush or dental floss - but when used along with proper brushing and flossing techniques, it can be very effective!
Fundamentals of Flossing
To keep your teeth and gums clean and healthy, you need to floss at least once per day. But how do you get floss under the archwire of your braces?
It's not so hard with the help of a floss threader. Using this device is somewhat like threading a needle: You pull one end of floss through the threader, and then push the threader - carrying with it the free end of the floss - under the archwire.
Now grasp the floss on each end and slide it up and down the sides of both teeth, and all the way under the gums until you hear a squeaky sound. Finally, pull it out and use a new section of floss for the next area.
Do you ever wonder how effective your tooth-cleaning techniques really are? There's an accurate way to tell, using special vegetable dyes called "disclosing solutions" or "disclosing tablets." As they dissolve in the mouth, these dyes highlight plaque and food debris that brushing has missed. You can then easily remove the dyed spots - and you'll know for sure if your oral hygiene methods need a little "brushing up."
Keeping your teeth and gums healthy now is an investment in your future. It enables you to get the best results from your orthodontic treatment, and starts you toward a brighter smile that can last for a lifetime.
Caring for Your Orthodontic Appliance
Damaged appliances can increase the length of your treatment process, so be sure to take care of all your appliances. Your teeth and jaw can only move into their correct positions if you consistently wear the rubber bands, headgear, retainer, or other appliances prescribed by your doctor.
For example, Invisalign's clear aligner system will only work if the aligners are worn the 20-22 hours per day as recommended. Being compliant is the only way to ensure your treatment is effective, and to help you achieve the smile you've always wanted to.
Foods to Avoid With Braces
When you get your braces on, you're on your way to a beautiful smile! While you are on this exciting journey, please be aware that eating certain types of food can damage the wires or brackets - and make your daily oral hygiene routine more challenging.
Not to worry, though - your orthodontic treatment will all be worth it in the end! But in the meantime you'll want to pay special attention to what you eat. Let's start with the foods you should avoid.
Foods to Avoid
- Popcorn hulls can get stuck under braces, where they are very difficult to remove. They can get wedged between teeth and below the gums, causing them to become inflamed and swollen. If you feel you can't live without popcorn, "hulless" popcorn is safer for people with braces. Note that "hulless" popcorn still has a hull; it's just smaller and softer.
- Acidic beverages like soft drinks, including diet sodas, sports drinks, energy drinks and lemonade, are especially hard on teeth with braces. Some people notice white spots on their teeth after their braces have been removed. These spots are where the enamel has been stripped of its important minerals, paving the way for bacteria to create cavities. The resulting white spots are likely to be permanent.
- Sticky candy like caramel, taffy, gummy bears and the like can coat your teeth with sticky sugar and can even pull off your brackets.
- Hard candy can pop off brackets and bend wires. Also, the sugar can invite plaque to form under and around the braces, where cleaning is difficult.
- Chewy foods like bagels and hard rolls as well as hard, crunchy foods like pizza crust, hard nuts and thick pretzels may bend wires and pop off brackets. Even healthy fruits and vegetables that require biting with the front teeth can damage braces. These include apples, corn on the cob, carrots and many raw veggies.
- Chewing on ice cubes isn't good for teeth without braces either, but it can cause particular problems for braces, possibly breaking off a bracket or moving a wire.
All of this is not to say you should forego these fruits and vegetables completely, but you might have to go about eating them differently. Here's how: Cut or slice raw fruits and vegetables into small pieces and chew carefully, or cook veggies to soften them. You can cut corn off the cob - although it is still likely to get stuck in your braces. If this happens, you can use an interdental toothbrush (the floss picks with bristles) or a water pick to free food particles.
Foods You Can Eat
The good news is that not every yummy food is off-limits for people who wear braces. There are still plenty of food choices that you can safely eat with braces. Among them:
- Soups and chili
- Yogurt and other dairy products
- Bananas, strawberries and other soft fruits
- Tuna, baked fish, meatloaf and tofu
- Mashed potatoes, baked potatoes and sweet potatoes
- Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
- Mac 'n' cheese, ravioli and other pasta dishes
- Thin and light crackers or cookies
As a rule of thumb, soft foods are easier on the hardware in your mouth. If you're not sure about a certain food, ask yourself if it fits into one of the categories of foods to avoid: hard, chewy, sticky, sugary or acidic. And you can always ask us!
When you first get your braces, you may notice that your teeth and mouth feel a little tender or sore. This is perfectly normal, and we promise your mouth won't be sore forever. To relieve the pain, we recommend dissolving one teaspoon of salt in eight ounces of lukewarm water.
Swish and gargle this solution in your mouth for just a couple of minutes (do not swallow the saltwater).
If your pain is severe and doesn't go away after rinsing, you can also try taking a pain reliever. It's normal for your lips, cheeks, and tongue to become irritated for one to two weeks as they toughen and become used to the braces.
We would be happy to give you some wax that you can put over the braces to lessen the tenderness. If you need some wax, please let us know.
If your teeth begin feeling a little loose, don't worry - it's normal! Your braces must loosen your teeth first to move them into the right position. Once your teeth have been repositioned, they won't be loose anymore.
Loose Wires, Bands, & Brackets
The wires and bands on your braces may come loose. If this happens, please contact us as soon as possible so that we can check and repair your appliance. If any piece of your appliance comes off, be sure to save it and bring it to the office with you.
You can temporarily fix the loose wire by using the back of a spoon or the eraser end of a pencil to carefully and gently push the wire back into place. If the loose wire is causing irritation to your lips or cheeks, put wax or a wet cotton ball over the broken wire to relieve the pain.
Misplaced Archwire, Bracket, or Tie
Once your teeth adjust to treatment, they begin to move. When this happens, the archwire that connects them may also move, poking out a bit near the back of the mouth and irritating your cheeks.
You can often move this wire into a better position by using the eraser end of the pencil or a cotton swab. You can manipulate any misplaced wires or ties back into place by gently using a pair of clean tweezers.
If some of the wires or brackets have shifted, and begun causing irritation to your mouth, you can use orthodontic wax to cover the parts that are poking out.
This will help ease the discomfort, but make sure you get in touch with our office as soon as you can, so we can fix the actual problem instead of you only masking the symptoms at home.
Tips for Athletes & Musicians
You can still play sports like normal during your treatment, but remember to protect your teeth with an orthodontic friendly mouth guard, or to remove your Invisalign aligner during practice or the game.
If you have an accident during your athletic activity, check your appliances and your mouth immediately. If the appliances appear damaged or the teeth loosened, schedule an appointment.
If you play an instrument, you may find it a little challenging to become adjusted to playing with your braces. It's normal to have some difficulty with proper lip position.
Sores can also develop, but liberal use of wax and warm salt-water rinses will help your lips and cheeks toughen up more quickly than you'd think.