Are you using your orthodontic braces as an excuse not to floss? Braces create all kinds of nooks and crannies where bacteria can hide. This means you need to ramp up your oral hygiene routine, rather than cut it down. And although flossing may pose a challenge with a mouthful of braces, it's not impossible. Here are some tips on the successful use of dental floss for braces patients.
Importance of Using Dental Floss
Toothbrushes are good for cleaning bacterial plaque and debris from the fronts and backs of your teeth. However, plaque also forms along the sides of your teeth where your toothbrush can't reach. This is why, according to the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD), flossing is just as important as brushing whether or not you have braces, and flossing every day is one of the best things you can do for your oral health.
But if you are getting your teeth realigned, the only way to floss is by getting it under the wires.
Getting Under the Wires
An easy way of getting dental floss under your wires is with a floss threader, a very thin piece of flexible plastic with a large loop at the end. After putting your floss through the loop, you pull the threader up and under the wire. At this point, the floss is on the tooth side of the wire, and you can floss as normal. You'll repeat this process between each tooth. Dental floss for braces may also be pre-cut with a stiff threader section, either on one end or both ends of the dental floss. This is a good solution for younger flossers or anyone with dexterity problems.
Floss picks are another tool that can make the habit easier. These picks come with a short section of floss held in place by two thin prongs that are often thin enough to fit under the wire. The other end of the handle has bristled picks that you can use to clean your brackets. There are many similar tools available in your local convenient store to help both kids and adults floss while wearing braces, but if you're unsure which one will work best for you, ask your orthodontist for suggestions and a brief lesson in flossing.
Getting the floss under your wires is just half the battle. Once the floss is where it needs to be, you'll need to use a correct flossing technique that ensures you're effectively removing plaque. Start with piece of floss that's long enough for you to wrap around both middle fingers, while giving yourself an inch or two to sneak in between two teeth.
- Carefully slide the floss between your teeth, and make a C-shape around one of them to access the base of each surface.
- Use an up-and-down motion, keeping the floss tight against the tooth and making sure you go beneath the gum tissue.
- After you've finished with the side of one tooth, curve the floss around the adjacent tooth and repeat this up-and-down and side by side motion.
- Gently slide the floss out from between your teeth.
Keeping Your Brackets Clean
Now that you're successfully flossing, don't skimp on brushing your teeth. With braces, it's a good idea to brush after each meal, using a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste. But replace your toothbrush frequently; it gets quite the workout against your metal brackets. You may also consider keeping disposable brushes like Colgate® Wisp® with you for times when you aren't at home. These portable tools have pointed ends to them to help remove isolated debris so you don't have to unroll your floss each time.
You can expect straight teeth after braces, but a beautiful smile needs your help along the way. So remember, using dental floss daily within your cleaning routine is well worth the effort to ensure that your teeth are decay-free when orthodontia comes to an end.