Having braces can be a challenge in many ways. Getting a mouthful of metal constantly tweaked and tightened can be uncomfortable, and children and adults sometimes feel a little self-conscious while their smiles are under construction. Preventing tooth decay with braces can also take some extra effort as you learn new ways to brush and floss around your orthodontic devices.
Preventing Tooth Decay With Braces
While some folks are lucky enough to be born with a perfect smile, lots of people choose orthodontic treatment for cosmetic reasons or alignment problems. Orthodontic problems (also referred to as malocclusions) can include teeth crowding, extra or missing teeth, spacing issues, tooth protrusion, and jaw growth issues, according to the American Association of Orthodontists. Some malocclusions are inherited, while others result from thumb sucking, accidents or other environmental factors.
Malocclusions that aren't corrected can cause a host of problems. Crooked and crowded teeth are more difficult to clean than straight teeth, and can result in enamel wear, chewing and speaking difficulties and bone and gum disease. Braces correct tooth issues over time by straightening teeth with steady pressure.
When interactions with food and drink cause the bacteria in your mouth to produce acids, those acids go to work on the protective enamel that coats each of your teeth. During the first stage of tooth decay you may notice white spots forming on your teeth. This acid damage is known as demineralization.
In the next stage, the acids in your mouth progress through the enamel and attack the softer dentin underneath, forming a cavity. Toothaches, chewing pain and sensitivity to sweet, cold or hot foods and drinks are all signs that you may have one or more cavities.
Left untreated, the tooth decay will infect a tooth's pulp. Cavities can soon progress into painful abscesses, infections or even jaw problems, so see your dentist regularly to check for any issues.
The easiest way to prevent tooth decay is to brush your teeth at least twice a day. It isn't as easy to properly clean your teeth when they have braces on them, however, it's important to follow a specific regimen. Start by rinsing your mouth with water before brushing. This helps loosen food particles trapped by the braces. Start brushing at the gumline by holding the brush at a 45-degree angle, then angle the brushstrokes down on top of each bracket. Use the same type of stroke at the bottom of the brackets with the toothbrush aimed up. Be sure to brush slowly and gently.
Once you've brushed each tooth, floss using a floss threader to make the process easier. Follow that up by rinsing with a mouthwash, such as Colgate Total Advanced Pro-Shield, which provides 12-hour protection against germs even after drinking and eating. Diligence and patience are key when it comes to taking care of your teeth with braces.
While it's important to avoid tooth decay with braces, proper oral care doesn't stop the day the braces are removed. Keep your mouth healthy by brushing at least twice a day, combined with flossing for those hard-to-reach spots. And remember to schedule regular checkups with your dentist for thorough cleanings – before, after and while your braces are working on your ideal smile.