Maintaining an excellent oral hygiene routine is an essential part of preventing dental problems like plaque, tooth decay, and gingivitis. It’s even more important to take good care of your teeth and gums when you’re undergoing orthodontic treatment! Here at Selden Orthodontics, we’ve seen cavities and gum disease interrupt the progress patients are making, which can lead to longer treatment times or even affect the final results. If you’re in braces or aligners, you already know that keeping your mouth healthy and your appliance clean plays a big role in how successful your treatment is. It’s always good to brush up on the basics of orthodontic care and good dental hygiene, so let’s do that below!
Tools of the trade
Orthodontic treatment can sometimes leave your teeth and gums feeling a little sensitive, so we recommend using a toothbrush with soft bristles. Manual toothbrushes are fine and will get the job done as long as you’re taking the time to properly brush, but they can sometimes leave food particles and plaque behind even if you’re being careful. We encourage patients to use an electric toothbrush for the extra power it provides!
You don’t need any specific type of toothpaste for brushing if you’re an orthodontic patient, but one with fluoride is recommended by dentists and orthodontists alike. Using mouthwash daily can also help clean those tiny spaces in between the teeth, where food particles may still be trapped. It’s also great for rinsing around your brackets if you have braces.
Tips for braces patients
If you’re new to braces, you may find that you need to adjust the way you brush your teeth and how often you do so. Ideally, you should brush after every meal and snack, but we know that’s not always possible. Aim to brush 3-4 times a day for at least two minutes each time to keep pesky food particles and plaque from building up between your braces and teeth. For the best results when brushing, follow these simple guidelines.
- Hold the toothbrush parallel to the floor against the side of the teeth, and move the toothbrush in small circular motions. Follow the regular curve of the gums and teeth as you go from tooth to tooth.
- Brush each tooth for several seconds, taking care that all debris is removed along the gum line, between the braces, and on the surface of each tooth.
- Brush each surface of the teeth, including the top, inside, and back. Make sure you get behind the molars, too! Angle the toothbrush upward on the lower teeth and downward on the upper teeth, and remember to get the roof of your mouth and tongue before rinsing.
- To keep your brackets clean and shiny, angle the toothbrush against them with gentle but firm pressure. Don’t forget to brush thoroughly under the wires, too, as lots of icky stuff can collect there.
Flossing properly can be tricky at the best of times, but it’s essential that you take the time to do it right if you’re in braces. Even if it seems like you’ve brushed everything away, food particles can be trapped in nooks and crannies that are hard to see and reach. You should be flossing every night before bed, but you might find it comes with a bit of a learning curve when there’s brackets and wires to contend with. There are products to make this less intimidating, including “threader floss,” which has a stiff end that permits flossing between brackets, and reusable plastic floss threaders. Use the following guidelines to get the best floss when you’re wearing braces.
- Slide a piece of floss about 18 inches long under the wire, above the space between the two teeth. Insert the floss half way through, and then hold both ends of the floss. Carefully slide the floss up and down a few times between the teeth. Listen for the slight squeaking sound that means the teeth are clean!
- Floss the gum line with the floss in the shape of a “C,” and below the gum line with a soft up and down motion. Be careful not to apply too much pressure when flossing around the archwire.
- Gently remove the floss, thread it under the next wire, and repeat the steps above as you go.
Flossing effectively with braces can take a while in the beginning, but your speed will increase with practice, so be patient and give yourself time to get used to the process!
Tips for Invisalign patients
Invisalign aligners are designed to be removed before you eat, drink anything other than water, and brush your teeth, making your oral hygiene routine a simple affair! There are some basic guidelines to follow to ensure your teeth and aligners are in good shape throughout the treatment process, however. To start with, always wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before putting your aligner in. Pay careful attention to your fingernails and fingertips since these come into the closest contact with your mouth and aligners.
You’ll need to care for your aligners when they’re out of your mouth, too! It can be tempting to toss them onto the nearest surface when you remove them, but you should always place aligners in a sealed container or leave them to soak in a cleaning solution when you’re not wearing them. This protects them from germs and also prevents you from accidentally throwing them away (which happens more frequently than you may think.)
Once you’re done eating or your teeth are brushed and flossed, wash your hands again and rinse your aligner well before putting it back in your mouth. Remember that aligners must be worn for 20-22 hours every day throughout the treatment process and switched out for the next in the series every 1-2 weeks. When you stick to these guidelines, your Invisalign aligners can work just as well as braces, leaving you with a healthy smile that feels good and looks great!
Selden Orthodontics is here to help you achieve your best smile
It’s important to take care of your smile, especially when you’re receiving orthodontic treatment. By following the guidelines and tips we’ve listed above, you’ll be able to boost your oral health while we work on straightening your teeth! If you have any questions or concerns about orthodontic care, our expert team is always happy to walk you through the ins and outs of the treatment process. If you’d like to learn more about being proactive on your journey towards a more confident smile, get in touch with us today to schedule a FREE consultation or follow-up appointment with Dr. Selden!