Braces are a fact of life for a lot of kids growing up, and the benefits of wearing them are evident in later life. According to the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO), braces help fix teeth that are crooked, too close together and too far apart, as well as help solve under- or overbites. Caring for braces is an important part of the experience: The better care you take of your braces, the more comfortable and effective they'll be, and the quicker you'll have them taken off.
Brushing and Flossing with Braces
If your dental hygiene wasn't the best before you got braces, it's time to step up your game. Taking care of your teeth and gums becomes extra important when you wear braces, and caring for them means taking the time to brush your teeth and floss regularly. You'll want to be gentle when you brush or floss in order to avoid damaging the wires and brackets.
Use a toothbrush with a soft head, such as the Colgate™ SlimSoft toothbrush®, and a toothpaste with fluoride. KidsHealth recommends brushing after every meal, as foods are more likely to get stuck in your braces, encouraging the buildup of plaque. Flossing after meals will help you get rid of food particles jammed between your teeth or in the wiring of your braces and on the brackets. Be gentle with the floss. Thread it carefully between the tooth and the braces' wire, then work it slowly back and forth between the teeth and braces. Remember that too much force when flossing can damage your braces.
Foods to Skip
Your orthodontist will give you a list of foods to avoid when you have braces on your teeth. A good rule of thumb is to skip any sticky, chewy or hard foods. Sticky foods, such as caramels or gummy candy, are likely to get stuck. Crunchy foods such as popcorn or hard pretzels can also get lodged in the braces or can cause them to snap when you take a bite.
Along with steering clear of certain foods, you'll also want to watch anything you put in your mouth when you have braces. Nail biters or pen chewers can damage their braces quite easily. Crunching down on other hard objects, such as ice, can also spell trouble.
Protecting Your Braces
If you or your child plays a sport, good news: you can keep it up with braces. But have him or her wear a mouth guard to avoid damage to the braces or teeth during a game or practice. The American Dental Association recommends wearing a mouth guard on both your top and bottom teeth when you have braces. For the best fit, invest in one that's custom made by your dentist.
Troubleshooting Your Braces
Even if you do your best caring for braces, some things may break or snap. What you do if something breaks depends on what it is and the degree of damage. If you get hit in the mouth during a game and a tooth cracks, for instance, see a dentist immediately.
Then again, if a bracket or wire comes loose, you need to see your orthodontist right away to have it fixed. Be extra careful with broken wires, as you don't want to accidentally breathe in the wire or swallow it. Orthodontic wax can temporarily reattach a loose bracket, according to WebMD, or cover up the sharp end of a wire sticking out. If a band, bracket or spacer falls off or becomes loose, call your orthodontist to schedule an appointment to repair it right away.
Having braces on your teeth means you need to pay a bit more attention to your mouth, but the results are always worth it. Do your best to prepare for them coming off, revealing that new and improved smile.