Straightening teeth with braces can be a large financial investment, and the last thing your family needs is the added expense of repairing or replacing broken appliances. Therefore, meticulously caring for braces is crucial, as is caring for your teeth and gums. If you or your children are undergoing orthodontic care, the following tips can help protect your investment and ensure that you maintain good oral health during and after treatment.
Here's what to keep in mind with traditional braces, lingual braces or Invisalign®:
Most people are familiar with traditional braces, which consist of brackets on the front surfaces of the teeth that hold horizontal archwires in place. According to the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO), plaque easily collects around these brackets, and poor oral hygiene while wearing braces can lead to periodontal (gum) disease and permanent staining of the teeth. Therefore, gently brush around your brackets and wires after every meal using fluoride toothpaste and a soft-bristled toothbrush such as Colgate® Slim Soft™. You should also floss once a day and swish with an over-the-counter fluoride mouthrinse often recommended by your orthodontist.
It's a good idea to regularly inspect your braces each time you clean your teeth to check for loose or broken appliances. To prevent this kind of damage, the AAO advises orthodontic patients to avoid hard, sticky or chewy foods. These items include nuts, gum, gummy bears or even popcorn. Biting into hard fruits and vegetables such as apples and carrots is also a cause for concern, but you may eat these foods if you cut them into small pieces that don't aggravate the wiring. Additionally, chewing on your nails, pen caps or ice can break your braces, so kicking these habits is a must.
The American Dental Association (ADA) Mouth Healthy site recommends protective mouthguards for kids who play sports, but especially for those who wear braces. In addition to protecting the cheeks and lips from serious cuts, these soft mouth guards prevent damage to your braces or appliances if you or your children should fall or sustain a hit to the face.
The American Lingual Orthodontic Association (ALOA) states that lingual braces are constructed much like traditional braces, but the brackets and archwires are placed on the backs of the teeth. Taking care of lingual braces – which are placed behind the teeth – is similar to caring for braces of the conventional variety, as far as cleaning your teeth and avoiding hard or sticky foods. However, their location may make it harder to tell if they're damaged or if you've done a thorough job of removing plaque and food particles around them. This makes regular, careful inspection of your wires and brackets even more vital when you have lingual braces.
Invisalign Clear Aligners
Invisalign treatment uses clear aligners that are placed onto the teeth. Whether they're for you or your kids, the makers of Invisalign® recommend keeping these devices in the mouth 20 to 22 hours every day. This means you'll only need to remove them to brush your teeth and eat. Caring for your teeth is easy during Invisalign® treatment because there are no cumbersome appliances to work around; simply floss once a day and brush your teeth as you normally would after meals. After cleaning your teeth, you can clean these aligners by brushing and rinsing them before putting them back in your mouth. Frequent cleaning, along with avoiding dark, acidic beverages, ensures that the aligners do not stain. To prevent physical damage to the aligners, take gentle care placing and removing them, which means never using force or sharp instruments. You should push them into place with your fingertips using equal amounts of pressure on the left and right molars. To remove them, pull gently, starting with the back teeth and working your way forward.
No matter what type of orthodontic treatment you choose, caring for braces properly is the key to avoiding unnecessary repair costs and extended treatment. Likewise, diligently caring for your teeth and gums will ensure a healthy and beautiful smile when the braces come off.