The best way to ensure a clean and healthy smile is brushing and flossing. Food particles can accumulate on teeth and in braces, and over time, turn into plaque. The bacteria that results from this accumulation can lead to gum disease, tooth decay and even loss of teeth. To avoid these problems while you are in orthodontic treatment, take special care of your braces, teeth and gums to ensure you will have the best possible result.
Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and a small strip of fluoride toothpaste. When you brush your teeth, move the brush in small, circular motions to reach food particles that may be under your gum line. Hold the toothbrush at an angle and brush slowly and carefully, covering all areas between teeth, between braces and the surface of each tooth. It will take you several minutes to thoroughly brush your teeth. Brush up on the lower teeth, down on the upper teeth and the outside, inside and chewing surface of your front and back teeth. Brush your tongue and the roof of your mouth before you rinse.
Especially during orthodontic treatment, brush your teeth four times daily to avoid the accumulation of food particles in your teeth and braces:
- In the morning after breakfast
- After lunch or right after school
- After supper
- At bedtime
You will need to replace your toothbrush more often due to your appliances. As soon as the bristles start to wear down or fray, replace your toothbrush with a new one. It may be difficult for your toothbrush to reach some areas under your archwire. Do not swallow any toothpaste; rinse your mouth thoroughly with water after you finish brushing. It is important to floss and use an antibacterial mouthwash and fluoride treatment throughout your orthodontic treatment and beyond for optimal oral hygiene.
For areas between the teeth that a toothbrush can’t reach, use dental floss to remove food particles and plaque. Flossing takes more time and patience when you are wearing braces, but it is important to floss your teeth every day.
Use the reusable floss threader provided by our office to floss under your archwire daily. Pull a small length of floss from the dispenser through the threader and slide it up and down along the front of each tooth. You will be able to feel when the tooth is clean and hear the squeak of the floss against your clean teeth. Use care around your archwire and do not floss too forcefully around it or put too much pressure on it. After you floss between your archwire and braces, floss between your other teeth and gums.
If you are flossing without the floss threader, pull a small length of floss from the dispenser. Wrap the ends of the floss tightly around your middle fingers. Guide the floss between all teeth to the gum line, pulling out food particles or plaque. Unwrap clean floss from around your fingers as you go, so that you have used the floss from beginning to end when you finish. Floss behind all of your back teeth.
Floss at night to make sure your teeth are clean before you go to bed. When you first begin flossing around your braces, your gums may bleed a little. If the bleeding does not go away after the first few times, inform a staff member at your next appointment.
Eating While Wearing Braces
If you eat certain hard and/or sticky foods, they can damage your braces. Foods such as sticky taffies, hard nuts, ice, hard corn tortillas and corn chips, corn on the cob, whole apples and hard carrots can cause your brackets to come off your teeth. We also ask that you please do not chew on your fingernails, pens or pencils. For a complete list of items to stop eating, please see our Foods to Avoid Page.
Loose Brackets or Bands
Call our office immediately for advice if a bracket or wire is loosened. The bracket may need to be re-fitted as soon as possible. You may have a situation that requires cutting a wire or sliding a bracket off a wire at night or over the weekend. If you need to cut a wire in case of emergency, you may use fingernail clippers that have been washed and sterilized in alcohol. Please call our office the next business day, so that we may schedule an appointment for you.
Sore Teeth and Mouth
Right after you get your braces, and sometimes after you have an adjustment appointment, your teeth and mouth will likely feel sore. To alleviate the pain, you may gargle with lukewarm saltwater, which is a mixture of one teaspoon of salt dissolved in eight ounces of water. You can also take acetaminophen or other non-aspirin pain relievers. A warm wash cloth or heating pad may reduce the soreness in your jaws. Remember, chewing makes the soreness go away quicker, so enjoy a good meal or a small piece of sugarlesss gum after you get your braces on or tightened.
Wearing Your Elastics
Elastics are a vital part of treatment and are also contingent upon patient compliance. They add extra pressure to the braces to help move the teeth. Generally worn at all times (excluding eating and brushing your teeth), elastics should be changed at least once a day. They come in various sizes as they are each used for a specific purpose. We will provide you with the appropriate size.
It is important to wear them consistently or treatment setbacks may occur. If only one day is missed, it could cause your teeth to shift back to their original position!
Please keep in mind:
- Patient compliance is key! You must remember to wear the elastics at all times and change them once a day.
- Be sure to bring extra elastics with you wherever you go. If one breaks, you will have a replacement.
- If you miss a day of wearing the elastics, do not “double up” the next day. Wear your elastics as instructed.
- As you wear the elastics, they will stretch and lose elasticity. This will cause the pressure to decrease. Changing your elastics every day is very important to keep the proper pressure level that will move your teeth.
- If any part of your brackets, wires or hooks breaks, please call us for a repair appointment. We need to fix your braces as soon as possible so you can continue to wear the elastics.
Caring for Your Removable Appliance/Retainer
When we remove your braces, we will begin the retention stage of your treatment. Your final orthodontic result depends on your retainers, so follow through with the hard work you’ve put in so far! Be sure to follow these guidelines:
- Until Dr. Buttner instructs you otherwise, please wear your retainers at all times.
- Remove your retainer when you are eating.
- When not wearing your retainer, always put it in its case. If you wrap it in a napkin, it is likely to be accidentally thrown away!
- Remember to remove your retainer before brushing, and brush your retainer before placing it back in your mouth.
- If you are having trouble speaking while wearing your retainer, just practice! Read aloud, talk on the phone or sing along to the radio to get used to your retainers!
- Be careful with your retainers because they can break easily. Call us if you accidentally break one of them.
- Please make an appointment if you think your retainer needs to be adjusted. Never do it yourself.
- Always bring your retainers with you to your follow-up appointments.
- Please remove your retainer if you are swimming.
- Do not put your retainer in hot or boiling water to clean it. It can melt! Also keep retainers away from hot car dashboards and out of the washing machine.
- YOU CAN NOT OUT-GROW YOUR RETAINER! It will stop fitting only if you are not wearing it regularly.
Replacing your retainer is expensive. If you follow the above guidelines, your retainer can last for years!