How to Brush With Braces: Partnering With Your Child

When your child gets braces, there can be a lot of new things to get used to for both them and you. One of the major lessons to learn is how to take care of the braces. Once the orthodontist actually puts the braces on and your child is back at home, you inherit the role of the oral care expert. Teaching your children how to brush with braces gives them the tools to protect the braces and keep their teeth clean. Here's how to do it.

The Right Tools

Making sure they have the right utensils in the bathroom encourages your child to do his part in keeping teeth clean. Here are some of the things you'll need for brushing with braces:

  • A soft-bristled toothbrush, like the Colgate SlimSoft, which has thinner, soft bristles that are perfect for cleaning braces, brackets and the wires, as well as along the gum line and teeth.
  • A fluoride toothpaste. Let your child choose a flavor he loves so he's more likely to brush.
  • Floss and a floss threader to clean in between the teeth.
  • An oral irrigator to blast out stuck food particles.

By making your kid an active participant in choosing oral care products, you'll have a more willing subject when it comes time to clean teeth before bedtime.

Brushing Technique

It's important to teach your child the right way to brush with braces because braces create areas in which food can hide, and that can lead to tooth decay and gum problems. Here are the steps to follow:

  • Remove any elastics fitted to the braces.
  • Using the soft-bristled toothbrush, have your child brush at a 45 degree angle where the gums meet the teeth, using back and forth motion.
  • Gently brush the braces, but use enough pressure to push the bristles onto the brace brackets on the top and bottom surfaces and to clean the wire.
  • Once each tooth has been brushed, rinse and examine the teeth to make sure there are no food particles still stuck in the braces.
  • Reinsert the elastics for the braces.

The brushing process should take about two minutes, or the length of your child's favorite song. Try loading up a tune on your MP3 player to make sure your braces-wearer is brushing for the right amount of time.

How to Floss

Obviously wiring across each tooth makes flossing between them much more difficult, but it's still an important part of the process. You can use an oral irrigator to remove food particles, but the NYU College of Dentistry suggests flossing should be done at least once a day. Lend a hand until your child gets the hang of it; the floss will need to be used with a floss threader and your child would place the floss through the floss threader, which looks like the eye of a needle. Gently place it under the wire and between the teeth using a push pull stroke to remove any plaque or food debris between the teeth. Make sure you use a fresh piece of floss between each tooth so your child is not moving plaque from tooth to tooth. It takes alittle time and effort to get used to flossing with braces on. There are also thin interdental (in between the teeth) cleaning brushes that can also be used if using a floss threader is a challenging experience.

Making it Easier

The more attention your kids pay to keeping their braces clean, the easier their oral care routine will be. Teeth can be sore after an adjustment, so soft foods and gentle brushing will feel best. It's also important to avoid sticky foods that can cling to braces. It's hard to enforce, but keep your kids away from snacks such as popcorn, taffy and gum.

By showing your child how to brush with braces, you are helping him create good habits for the future and ensuring his teeth will be healthy long after the braces come off.

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