Orthodontic treatment is an important investment in your future. Everyone helping with your orthodontic care wants you to have the best results possible. While you are wearing braces, it is essential that you take care of your teeth and gums. This article explains why and how.
Protecting Your Healthy Smile While Wearing Braces
Have a look in the mirror at your new braces. As you see, the brackets and wires have many nooks and crannies that can trap food and plaque. This means your risk of tooth decay and gum problems may be higher while you are wearing braces.
You need to pay special attention to cleaning your teeth everyday and to your diet. Permanent damage to tooth enamel can occur if the teeth and brackets are not kept clean.
Areas on the enamel surface may begin to lose minerals (the early stage of tooth decay), leaving unsightly white spots. You may also develop inflamed, bleeding gums (gingivitis). Gingivitis and the early stages of tooth decay can be reversed by taking extra care with your cleaning and diet. If left untreated, they can lead to bigger problems that will require treatment and have life-long effects. While you are having orthodontic treatment, you need to continue to have regular check-ups with your family dental professional to ensure little problems don't become big ones.
Dental professionals are increasingly concerned about acidic foods and drinks that can damage tooth enamel when consumed frequently or when sipped over extended periods of time.
The chart below shows you how some common food and drinks stack up against one another. While many high acid foods are healthy for your body, low acid foods are better for your teeth. Remember- during orthodontic treatment, it's best to choose low acid foods when you sit down to eat.
- Bananas, mangoes, melons
- Carrots, cucumbers, lettuce, beets
- Milk, water
- Meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, crackers, soups, pasta
Most of us are well aware that sugary foods and drinks can lead to tooth decay. Starchy foods, such as potato chips, can also stick to teeth for long periods of time and cause tooth decay.
Soda is especially hard on teeth because it not only contains acidic flavor additives, but it also includes 10–12 teaspoons of sugar, which further increases your chance of developing cavities. Studies show that diet sodas are just as damaging as regular sodas at weakening tooth enamel.1
Saliva is your body's natural defense against tooth decay. You need to give saliva plenty of time to wash away acids that form after eating and drinking. A good rule to follow is to limit eating times each day to 3 meals and 2 snack times. You can drink plenty of water as often as you like! Be aware that bottled water may not contain fluoride.
There are foods that can loosen, break or bend wires and bands when you are wearing braces.
Avoid hard foods such as nuts and hard cookies. Foods such as apples and carrots should be chopped into small pieces before eating to reduce the stress on your braces. Avoid sticky foods such as caramels, toffees, muesli or fruit bars. No chewing gum! No chewing ice!
Habits such as nail biting, unnatural tongue thrusting, pencil chewing and nervous picking at your wires can also break braces. Be aware of these and make an effort to stop them. Remember that damaged braces mean extra appointments, inconvenience and extended treatment time. If you do break your braces, be sure to make an appointment with your orthodontist immediately. Broken braces are not correcting your teeth!
When cleaning your mouth while you are wearing braces, you need to pay special attention not only to your teeth and gums, but also to the brackets and wires.
Here are 10 simple steps for keeping your teeth, gums and braces in great shape:
- If your orthodontist has fitted you with elastics, remove them before brushing.
- Using a fluoride toothpaste and a soft, compact toothbrush, place your brush at an angle of 45 degrees against the gums. Gently brush along the gum line where the gums and teeth meet, using a small circular motion on each tooth.
- Spend about 10 seconds on each tooth before moving onto the next tooth, brushing in a set pattern so that you don't miss any teeth.
- Gently brush the braces. Press your toothbrush firmly enough so that the bristles spread into the gaps between the wire and the tooth. Brush in and around all of the brackets and wires. Ensure that you brush under the wires. A battery powered brush may be helpful.
- Brush both the inside and the outside surfaces of your teeth using a gentle circular motion on each tooth.
- For the chewing surfaces, use a firm back and forth motion.
- Spit out excess paste, then closely inspect your teeth and braces in the mirror to check that they are clean and shiny.
- Replace your elastics in accordance with your orthodontist's recommendation.
- After brushing, rinse with a fluoride mouthwash, such as Colgate® Phos-Flur® , for 1 minute to help prevent cavities and white spots.
- Use other oral care products, such as PreviDent® 5000 Booster™ (1.1% Sodium Fluoride), as prescribed by your dental professional.
Fluoride protection against tooth decay is needed throughout life. However, while you are wearing braces, it is much harder to keep your teeth clean. This can result in higher than normal amounts of plaque accumulation, which can cause cavities.
Using fluoride toothpaste after each meal or at least twice a day is one of the most proven ways to help you stay decay free. Fluoride makes teeth more resistant to the acids produced after eating or drinking and replaces minerals that are lost in the early stages of tooth decay.
Because your risk of tooth decay may be higher while you are wearing braces, your orthodontist may prescribe other fluoride products that give you additional protection, such as PreviDent® 5000 Booster™ (1.1% Sodium Fluoride).
PreviDent® 5000 Booster™ has over 4.5 times the fluoride protection than your everyday over-the-counter toothpaste. It can help repair early root cavities, so they don't become bigger problems.2
Your orthodontist or hygienist may recommend using special cleaning aids such as interdental brushes or floss threaders - yes, you can and should floss while wearing braces! Ask your orthodontist or hygienist to show you. They may also suggest rinsing with an antiseptic oral cleanser, like Colgate® Peroxyl®, or applying an oral pain reliever, such as Colgate® Orabase®, to help clean, soothe and heal cuts and scrapes that are caused by wearing braces.
1. Von Fraunhofer J, Rogers M. Dissolution of dental enamel in soft drinks. Gen Dent. 2004;52:308-12.
2. Baysan A, et al. Reversal of primary root caries using dentifrice containing 5,000 ppm and 1,100 ppm fluoride. Caries Res. 2001;35:41-46.