Female dentist examining the braces of a young female patient

Preventing Tooth Decay with Braces

If you or your child has braces, you most likely don't want to sit in your dentist's or orthodontist's chair more than is necessary – even if you love your dental pros. Avoiding cavities while wearing braces is one way to steer clear of extra visits.

To achieve that goal, preventative oral health care is worth the extra effort. Learn why it's easier for tooth decay to form while wearing braces and how to avoid cavities while your new smile is forming.

Why Braces?

Reasons to get braces go beyond straightening crooked teeth. Orthodontic issues known as malocclusions include having an overbite, an underbite, or other types of misaligned teeth causing a bad bite. If you have crowded, spaced-out, extra, or missing teeth, you're also a candidate for braces.

Teeth in need of correcting are more difficult to clean than straight, perfectly aligned teeth. Without corrective measures, there's a greater likelihood your tooth enamel might erode, leading to tooth decay. You might also experience bone and gum disease, as well as chewing and speaking difficulties.

The good news is that by putting carefully monitored pressure on your teeth and jaw, braces can correct your bite and straighten your teeth. That, in turn, can lead to greater self-confidence, plus healthier teeth and gums.

Tooth Decay and Braces

It's ironic that while correcting your teeth with braces ultimately helps prevent cavities, there's an increased chance of decay while wearing braces.

Depending on the type of braces you wear, braces can catch bits of food and sugar from certain drinks. Once trapped, these food/drink particles cause bacteria to form. The bacteria lead to plaque deposits. And plaque buildup leads to tooth decay (aka cavities) as well as gum disease.

As you'd imagine, you're more likely to experience these issues with nonremovable braces no matter what materials they're made of – metal, ceramic, or plastic. However, be aware that removable clear aligner trays and headgear braces can lead to problems without proper care.

Toothaches, chewing pain, and sensitivity to sweet, cold, or hot foods and drinks are all signs you might have one or more cavities. Left untreated, tooth decay might infect a tooth's pulp. Cavities can soon progress into painful abscesses, infections, or even jaw problems. That's why it's important to spend the extra effort keeping your braces clean to prevent tooth decay.

Keeping Braces Clean

When you get braces, your orthodontist will send you home with guidelines for an oral care regimen and perhaps individualized instructions. Your orthodontist can also advise you on specific dental products to use for the best results.

General guidelines to keep your mouth healthy and your braces clean:

  • Follow your orthodontists' instructions for brushing, flossing, and rinsing – which might be more often than usual. Also, note what your orthodontist advises regarding taking out your elastics.
  • Avoid chewy, crunchy, hard, and sticky foods – including chewing gum.
  • Do not chew ice.
  • Make an effort to stop such habits as chewing your fingernails, pencils, pens, and other hard items.
  • Schedule a dental checkup and professional cleaning every six months – or more frequently if advised.
  • Go in for orthodontic checkups as often as recommended.

You might also consider these dental tools to make your oral health care regimen easier and more effective:

  • Floss threader to make flossing easier
  • Water irrigator to flush out trapped food bits

If you're using clear aligner trays or dental headgear instead of traditional braces, make sure to clean your teeth, mouth, and dental appliance before using them.

Diligence and patience are key when it comes to keeping tooth decay away while wearing braces. By being aware of what can cause tooth decay while wearing braces, you'll be happy to follow a little bit more stringent oral health care routine. After all, you don't want a mouth full of cavities when you show off your ideal smile.

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This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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