A young girl in a hat with braces taking a selfie outdoors

Protecting Your Healthy Smile While Wearing Braces

Stepping up oral care throughout orthodontic treatment is a must-do to keep your or your kid's teeth and gums in great shape. After all, once the braces come off, you'll want to show off the brilliant smile you worked hard to attain.

When wearing braces, find out why it'll be worth the extra effort to care for your teeth and gums, maintain a nutritious diet, and break some annoying habits.

Why You Need to Take More Care with Braces

Examine your new braces in the mirror after you eat. Do you see the brackets and wires have nooks and crannies trapping food? This can lead to bacteria forming, causing plaque buildup, which can lead to tooth decay and gum disease. To avoid going down that path, you must be extra vigilant in preventing dental issues while wearing braces.

Care for Teeth, Gums, and Braces Properly at Home

During your oral care routine, pay special attention to your brackets and wires as well as to your teeth and gums.

By taking these 10 simple steps and finding the best dental products available, you can help keep your teeth, gums, and braces in great shape.

  1. Follow your orthodontist's advice for how often to brush, floss, and rinse daily. Plus, get guidance on dealing with your elastics when sitting down to meals and snacking.
  2. Floss to get any food stuck between your teeth. If needed, use a floss threader to make flossing easier.
  3. If you need extra help dislodging food particles between your teeth and around your brackets/wires, invest in a water irrigator. Your orthodontist might also recommend an interdental brush to clean between your teeth.
  4. Before you brush, rinse with water to help flush out food particles you flossed out or those still lodged around your braces.
  5. Use a soft-bristled, orthodontist-recommended toothbrush, which can be manual, electric, or battery-operated.
  6. Place a dab of fluoride toothpaste on your brush. Avoid whitening toothpaste as it will only whiten the enamel your braces don't cover.
  7. Ensure you gently brush using a standard procedure for brushing with braces or brushing as your orthodontist advises.
  8. As you brush your teeth, make sure you brush in and around all your braces' brackets and wires.
  9. Rinse with an orthodontist-recommended fluoride mouthrinse to make sure your teeth are clean and food-debris-free. (Go ahead, give your teeth the once-over by examining them in a mirror.)
  10. Schedule dental visits as recommended for check-ups and professional cleanings.

Once you get the flossing, rinsing, and brushing steps down, you'll eventually make the routine a healthy habit.

Consume a Tooth-Friendly, Braces-Friendly Diet

When choosing what to eat and drink, keep in mind that your diet should keep your teeth healthy and be kind to your braces.

When consumed often, starchy, acidic, and sugary foods – and drinks – can damage tooth enamel, leading to tooth decay. Since you're at a higher risk for tooth decay while wearing braces, a low-acidic, low-starch, processed-sugar-free diet is your best bet.

Also, certain foods can loosen, break, or bend braces' wires and bands, setting back the corrective progress you've already made.

With all that in mind:

Enjoy Eating and Drinking …

  • Soft fruit without small seeds, such as bananas, mangoes, and melons
  • Soft or liquid foods, such as lettuce, spinach, tofu, eggs, mushrooms, fish, yogurt, and soup
  • Cooked vegetables, such as carrots, beets, and green beans
  • Pasta and soft, seedless bread
  • Food cut up into small pieces, such as meat, poultry, pork, seafood, apples, and carrots
  • Beverages w/o acids or sugar, such as milk, green tea, and water (as much water as you want)

Avoid Eating and Drinking …

  • Hard foods, such as hard candies and nuts
  • Crunchy foods, such as whole apples and carrots, hard bread crusts, chips, and taco shells
  • Sticky foods, such as caramel, toffee, taffy, and fruit bars
  • Popcorn (As you know, even when you're not wearing braces, the kernels can irritate the gums.)
  • Soda pop, both diet and regular
  • Sweetened drinks

And absolutely no chewing gum or ice.

Did you know? Saliva is your body's natural defense against tooth decay. So, be sure to give your beneficial saliva plenty of time to wash away acids that form after eating and drinking. A good rule to follow is to limit eating to three meals a day and two snack times.

Break Habits That Harm Your Braces

Habits such as nail-biting, unnatural tongue thrusting, pencil chewing, and nervous picking at your wires can also damage your braces. Be aware of these habits and make an effort to stop them.

Remember that damaged orthodontic hardware (wires and brackets) means extra appointments, inconvenience, and extended treatment time. If you do break your braces, be sure to make an appointment with your orthodontist immediately.

When you or your child wears braces, you're committing to caring for your teeth and braces with a rigorous oral hygiene routine and a healthy diet. The payoff to your commitment: a beautiful smile that can last you a lifetime.

When you or your child wears braces, you're committing to caring for your teeth and braces with a rigorous oral hygiene routine and a healthy diet. The payoff to your commitment: a beautiful smile that can last you a lifetime.

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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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