Getting braces is a right of passage for anyone trying to attain that perfectly aligned smile everyone desires. Some of us wore ours for the majority of high school hoping to gain that “Best Smile” nomination. We clung to the light at the end of the tunnel, the promise of a straight and shiny smile when it was all over.
But when leaving that first orthodontic visit, you are left wondering how your mouth suddenly became bionic and how you are going to take care of it with all the extra accessories. If you can relate to wanting to take care of your teeth and brush properly, while your braces do their teeth-moving magic, stick with us!
We have a step-by-step guide to brushing your teeth with braces that will help you out! If you follow these steps and do a little extra cleaning work, you won’t have to wonder about the safety of your teeth while your braces do theirs!
Why is It So Important to Brush, Anyway?
We don’t just want to have straighter teeth, we want to keep them forever, right? Well if you desire to keep your beautiful new smile for good, your teeth need to be healthy and cared for. And that means keeping up a good oral health routine and more specifically, brushing well. We don’t want those teeth to come off when the braces do!
For some brushing incentive, here are the issues that might arise if you took a little braces break from brushing your teeth regularly and thoroughly. Keep up with this list and get a smile that looks great, and is full of strong healthy teeth, too!
Imagine waking up on the day you are scheduled to have your braces removed. You go to the orthodontist and they take off your braces, hold up the little square mirror of destiny, and instead of straight, white teeth, you are left with yellow stains on your teeth that were not there before.
This is one effect that not brushing well can have on your teeth. Gently scrubbing as much of the surface of your teeth as possible will help clean the stains left behind by foods and beverages. A good, gently abrasive toothpaste can also aid in stain removal.
The foods and drinks we consume each day are always down for setting up shop on our teeth.
This is an even larger threat when braces are in place, as there are more nooks and crannies for residue to get stuck inside and around your teeth. This sticky situation can cause the build-up of plaque to cling to your teeth. And plaque can be harmful to your teeth and gums.
Plaque does not merely sit on your teeth, but it works with acidic bacteria to attach to the outer enamel of your tooth structure, exposing the vulnerable dentin layer underneath. The long term occurrence of plaque on your teeth (think a few years of wearing braces) can cause major issues like the plaque turning into tartar, a thick, yellow, calcified deposit which is an even bigger problem that brushing can no longer correct.
Straight teeth with bad breath is not an ideal combo. But that’s what will happen if brushing is not done correctly for the duration of having braces. Food particles trapped around teeth and braces can leave unwelcome odor. We don't want to give a spoiler alert, but brushing your teeth and tongue well, and using a crisp minty toothpaste, will help ensure fresh breath.
Gingivitis is another issue caused by inadequate brushing. Gingivitis is a serious gum issue that occurs when plaque moves into the spaces along the gumline, causing painful inflammation. While gingivitis is generally non-destructive to gum tissue, failure to treat it early on can allow the condition to worsen and possibly turn into periodontitis, which causes permanent damage to several areas in your mouth.
Tips for Brushing with Braces
Now that you know the consequences of inadequate brushing, you can avoid it by following these guidelines for brushing with braces!
Keep it Consistent
This goes for people with or without braces, of course, but having braces means having more spaces for food particles to get trapped, like a plaque playground. One good way to avoid plaque resting on the surfaces of your teeth is to brush often.
The American Dental Association recommends brushing your teeth twice a day, for two minutes each time. Brushing extra after snacks and meals is never a bad idea though, especially when wearing braces.
Because braces are an obstacle course for your toothbrush, you want to make sure that the toothpaste you are using contains fluoride so that all the space you can reach is well-protected.
Fluoride surrounds your teeth with protection against enamel-damaging foods and beverages so you will want to skip those fluoride-free brands. Twice toothpastes have just the right amount of fluoride to give you those anticavity benefits you need, while also toting a few other benefits like whitening and enamel strengthening without harsh ingredients!
Gather your Tooth Toolbox
In order to clean your teeth as adequately as possible, you may need some extra tools when doing your double-daily oral ritual. Before you begin brushing, grab the following items:
- Gentle fluoride toothpaste
- Small cup
- Floss and a floss threader
Steps for Brushing Your Teeth with Braces
First, you will want to take off any rubber bands or other removable pieces that may get in the way of a good clean. It’s much easier to get into spaces when you are not navigating elastic bands. You can replace these once you are done cleaning!
Fill a small cup with water and rinse out your mouth. Give a good few seconds of thorough swishing. Moving some water through your mouth and braces will loosen any bits of food that have gotten stuck throughout the day.
3. Consider All Angles
When brushing with braces, much like when problem solving, it is important to think of all the angles. Place your chosen toothpaste onto the brush and begin by holding it at a 45 degree angle, using small gentle circular motions along the gumline.
Next, angle your toothbrush down over the top of the brackets. You will want to brush these carefully but also thoroughly, because brackets are a favorite place for food to become trapped. Once the tops of the brackets are clean, angle your brush up to get underneath the brackets and wires. Brush the inner sides and chewing surfaces of your teeth as usual.
Remember to brush your tongue! This is where a lot of bad breath lives!
4. Proceed with Caution
Brushing with braces does mean making sure to get in every nook and cranny, but that doesn’t mean you should brush too rough or too quickly. Though the recommended duration of brushing your teeth is 2 minutes, it may take longer when you have braces. So take your time, being careful not to damage any of your orthodontic equipment.
Time to grab that floss and get to work! But wait, it may be tricky to get standard floss between the workings of your braces. If so, you can use a floss threader.
Here is how:
- Cut a piece of floss.
- Looking into a mirror, use the threader to thread the floss between your teeth and the wire of your braces.
- Once threaded, wrap the floss around your fingers as usual, and pull the floss down between your teeth.
- Repeat this process in pairs of teeth, making sure that when you re-thread and remove the floss, you do not damage any of your brackets or wires.
6. Use Mouthwash
Once you have completed all these steps carefully, it is best to rinse your mouth again. But rather than water, use an antibacterial mouthwash this time. This will remove germs and any food remnants that brushing and flossing may have left behind, and give you the added bonus of fresh breath!
7. Look in the Mirror!
Because braces cover so much of your teeth, you may want to take a good look in the mirror after you have completed the previous steps. Make sure to open your mouth wide and use good lighting so you can see if any food still remains trapped between your braces and teeth.
Make sure to replace any removable orthodontic gear, like putting in fresh elastic bands or other appliances you may have removed prior to brushing
It does take some extra effort to keep teeth with braces clean and healthy, but it is worth the sacrifice to experience the “wow” moment of removing your braces, looking in the mirror for the first time and seeing the new smile you always dreamed of!