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Life with Braces

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Now that you have your braces, how do you take care of them? Educating you on the proper care, will limit your treatment time. Dr. Levin and her experienced team will provide you with all the information you’ll want to know about what to expect, including foods to avoid, how to care for your braces, and how to keep your teeth clean. Though every patient’s experience with braces can be different, there are some common do's and don’ts you should know to ensure your treatment is both efficient and effective.

Adjusting to proper oral hygiene with a smile full of brackets, including cleaning around bands and wires, is incredibly important. Effectively cleaning orthodontic appliances ensures that plaque is not allowed to build up around the braces. Typically, if a proper oral hygiene routine is not strictly adhered to, gum inflammation and tooth decay can occur.

The key to brushing and flossing effectively with orthodontic braces is learning the best technique. Though everyone has different preferences, here are some excellent tips on how to get started:

Brushing

Regular, proper brushing is especially important when braces have been applied to the teeth. If possible, brush teeth after every snack to eliminate plaque buildup. If this isn’t practical, aim to brush four times daily, including:    

  • After breakfast

  • After lunch

  • After dinner

  • Right before bedtime 

It is important to choose an appropriate toothbrush and to inspect the bristles routinely for signs of wear. The orthodontic braces will wear and fray the bristles, so replacement brushes will be needed more often than usual.

A soft bristled toothbrush is best because it will not damage the archwire or brackets. Apply a small strip of toothpaste, preferably a brand with fluoride, to the brush. Keep in mind that every tooth has several sides that need to be thoroughly cleaned: the outside, the sides facing each other and the chewing side.

When brushing front-facing sides of the teeth, create a 45 degree angle between the brush and the gum line. Brush in gentle circular motions from the top of the tooth to the bottom and then from bottom to top. Try not to exert too much force on either the wire or the brackets. When brushing the inside angles of teeth, work methodically creating the same 45 degree angle with the brush. The back surfaces of the teeth should pose no additional problems and should be brushed in the regular way.

Next, use a specially-designed proxabrush (Christmas tree brush) to brush between two brackets at a time. Insert the proxabrush and use downward and upward motion. Continue until all the spaces between the braces are plaque-free. As a last step, use mouthwash to flush out remaining bacteria.

Flossing

Flossing is also of paramount importance. Plaque and food particles can quickly provide fuel for the formation of bacteria colonies that cause gum disease and tooth loss. Though flossing between braces can be more time-consuming, it should still be completed several times per day.

Floss threaders can be used or the floss can be wrapped around fingers in the standard method. First, thread a piece of floss underneath the archwire of the braces. Slide the floss in an up-and-down motion against the large surface of the tooth. Exercise great care around the bracket and archwire, as they can easily be damaged by excess pressure.

Next, guide the floss to the interdental area (between the teeth) and use gentle sawing motions to move down from the gum line toward the bottom of the tooth. Repeat this motion several times. Then, using the same sawing motion, work the floss from the bottom of the tooth toward the gum line several times.

In some cases, flossing around orthodontic braces can cause mild bleeding, which should go away. If this bleeding persists for several days, be sure to inform our staff.

Traditional braces consist of bands, brackets and wires, which are easily dislodged or damaged while eating. When orthodontic braces sustain damage, they cease to work in the intended way. For this reason, it is essential to take good care of your braces and follow guidelines for eating as provided by your orthodontist.

Certain types of foods should either be completely avoided or eaten with extreme care. Here are some general guidelines to follow when eating with braces:

Do Not Eat Hard Foods Whole      

Hard foods pose the biggest threat to braces. They can dislodge the brackets and snap the wires. Here are some foods which must never be eaten whole:     

  • Hard candy

  • Popcorn (the kernels can cause breakage or inflammation if they get stuck between teeth)

  • Ice cubes

  • Unsliced hard fruits and vegetables

  • Hard potato chips

  • Gumballs 

Slice Fruits and Vegetables Before Consumption      

There are many hard, healthy foods such as fruits and vegetables that should still be consumed, but need to be prepared first. The best way to eat fruits and vegetables, such as carrots and apples, without damaging braces is to slice or dice them into small pieces. This will make them easier to eat and reduce the chance of dislodging braces.

Do Not Eat Sticky Foods 

Sticky foods can quickly dislodge braces and tend to wrap around brackets, making them look stained and unattractive. Examples of sticky foods to be avoided include:

  • Gum

  • Taffy

  • Jerky

  • Caramel

  • Chocolate bars containing caramel 

Similarly, foods which are generally eaten off the bone or the cob must be must be completely stripped from the bone, and then cut into tiny pieces which will not dislodge or break appliances. 

Do Not Chew On Inedible Items

Chewing on pencils, crayons, pens or fingernails can easily damage braces. Always keep in mind that your orthodontic appliances are fragile. Some habits and activities require a change in routine to ensure effective treatment. 

Avoid Sugary Foods and Drinks

It is no secret that high sugar levels lead to tooth decay. As orthodontic appliances can exacerbate the decay process, it is even more crucial to think about the sugar content in foods. It is also essential to thoroughly brush teeth (including in-between the brackets) a minimum of four times each day. If brushing is not an option after every meal, try to rinse with water to remove food particles captured on brackets and between teeth.

Always remember to remove retainers before drinking beverages. The sugary liquid can become trapped between the device and teeth, which expedites the decay process.

Here are some sugary foods and beverages to avoid (the sugarless versions are acceptable):    

  • Milk

  • Soda

  • Breath mints

  • Iced tea

  • Jam and jelly

  • Cereals

  • Fruit juice          

If you have any questions or concerns about brushing, flossing, or eating with braces, please contact our office today!