Having braces might change the way you clean your teeth and mouth, but only a little bit. What you need to be aware of is that braces, wires, bands, and retainers can collect tiny food particles. Patients with braces can suffer from plaque build-up or tooth decay if oral hygiene is not performed regularly and properly. Inadequate brushing or flossing while wearing braces may lead to bad breath, cavities, tooth discoloration, and/or gum problems. If you are used to brushing and flossing daily, you’ll only need to make some small adjustments to learn how to take care of your new braces.
A toothbrush is still the best tool for brushing, and you can choose to use a regular toothbrush or an electric toothbrush while wearing braces. An electric toothbrush that spins in one direction rather than jigging in an up-and-down motion might make you feel more comfortable that you are not going to damage your braces. However, regular brushing should not harm your braces.
To brush your teeth correctly, mentally divide your mouth into four quadrants by dividing the top teeth into right and left halves and the bottom teeth into right and left halves. Brush each quadrant for 30 seconds before moving on to the next. Hold your toothbrush at a 45° or 90° angle to your teeth and gently scrub the surface of each tooth around the braces before scrubbing the top of the braces of each tooth. Be careful not to push too hard on your braces so that you do not damage the parts. After you have scrubbed the front surfaces of your teeth, brush the biting surfaces and the backs of your teeth.
To make sure you get under each wire and around each metal bracket, you can use an interdental toothbrush in addition to your regular toothbrush. Interdental brushes look like tiny Christmas trees, and you can gently poke them between the wires of your braces to remove plaque and food particles.
Flossing is crucial because it removes food particles stuck between teeth. Most cavities start between teeth where decay from food particles begins to eat away at your tooth’s enamel.
Flossing with braces takes some care and practice, but you’ll learn very quickly. Use a floss threader (we will give you some to get started and you can find them in pharmacies or drug stores) to gently pull a strand of floss up and around each arch wire. You can then floss between your teeth up near the gum line. Floss each day at least once (before bed is a great time), but you can also floss after meals or snacks to be sure you have removed any food particles.
Rinsing helps to remove larger food particles from your teeth and mouth before or after you brush and floss. Water makes a great rinse, but you can also use other types of oral rinses as you wish.
Taking Care of Your Retainer
Once you have had your braces removed, you will need to wear a retainer at night (and sometimes during the day) to keep your teeth from moving out of place again. Clean your retainer every time you brush and floss by giving it a bit of a brushing with your toothbrush. Once a day, put your retainer into a lukewarm cup of water into which you have dropped a denture cleaning tablet. This cleaning will remove plaque (yes, it can build up on your retainer, too!) and keep it smelling and tasting fresh.