21 Jul Braces and Oral Care
We treat many patients, both children and adults, that have braces. Braces are placed on the teeth by an Orthodontist to correct the problems caused by crooked or crowded teeth, however, the success of this treatment is affected by how well the teeth and gums are cared for during this time. I always explain to my patients with braces that good oral home care will not only keep your treatment time on course but will also ensure that once the braces are removed your teeth and gums are healthy.
The key to keeping the teeth and gums healthy is daily plaque removal. Plaque is the sticky film of bacteria that is constantly forming on the teeth. Cleaning the teeth and gums thoroughly to remove plaque daily may seem more difficult for patients with braces but with practice, and the right tools, it does get easier.
The teeth and braces should be brushed at least three times a day, especially after eating. First make sure to remove any elastic bands or other removable parts. There are specially designed orthodontic toothbrushes and electric toothbrush heads for braces, otherwise, the normal, soft electric toothbrush head, or small, soft manual toothbrush can do the same job when used correctly. I would always recommend an electric toothbrush over a manual brush as they have been shown to remove plaque more effectively and are especially good for hard to clean areas. Start by brushing each tooth individually in a circular motion along the gumlines, with the bristles at a 45 degree angle to the gums. Brush all outside and inside surfaces, then, brush the chewing surfaces. It is important to finish by brushing gently around the braces as they will trap more plaque then the smooth surfaces of the teeth.
Flossing around the braces daily to remove the plaque from in between the teeth is just as important as brushing. It is easiest to choose a threading floss with a stiffened end to feed the floss in between the teeth and under the wires of the braces. Examples are Superfloss, Floss Threaders and X-Floss. Interdental brushes are another great tool for braces. They have a very small head and are either cylindrical or christmas tree shaped and are perfect for cleaning under wires and between teeth that have larger spaces.
Due to the increased difficulty of cleaning around braces I would also recommend a daily fluoride mouthrinse to strengthen the teeth and protect against dental decay. It is vital to attend your regular check up and clean appointments with your dentist and hygienist even when under the care of an orthodontist. I usually recommend to my patients with braces to come in more regularly for cleans due to the increased risk of gum disease during this time.