Brushing and Flossing with Braces or Aligners: Expert Tips

Brushing and flossing with braces or aligners is no different than what you would normally do to keep your teeth clean. Before starting your routine, be sure to remove your aligners and place them in a safe spot. If you're having trouble cleaning the areas near the brackets and cables, there are some special tools that can help. A soft-bristled toothbrush or a two-tier toothbrush (one with longer bristles on the edges and a shorter one in the center) can be effective at removing plaque even with braces.

An electric toothbrush can also be used, in a moderate setting. For areas that are difficult to clean, try an interdental brush or proxabrush. This special product for cleaning teeth is shaped like a pipe cleaner and has small bristles that stick out everywhere. Use it gently and carefully to clean the small spaces under the cables and around the bands and brackets.

You know how important brushing and flossing your teeth are to maintaining a healthy smile, especially now that you're in orthodontic treatment. An oral irrigator can be used as an additional tool, but it is no substitute for a toothbrush or dental floss. When used in conjunction with proper brushing and flossing techniques, it can be very effective. For areas between braces and gums, tilt the brush toward the gumline (down for the lower teeth, up for the upper teeth) while maintaining circular motions.

Your orthodontist may suggest dipping an interproximal brush into a cap filled with fluoride rinse to protect your teeth with fluoride, or using a fluoride rinse instead of water in an irrigator. When plaque and food get stuck on teeth and around braces, tooth decay, swelling of the gums, bad breath, and permanent white marks on the teeth can be the result. While it's a little more difficult to do this with braces, there are some special products available, such as threaders and specific types of dental floss, that can help place the floss between the wires and the gumline. If a bracket or cable comes loose, or if you lose or break an aligner, tell your orthodontist right away.

Life during orthodontic treatment will include regular visits to the orthodontist, possibly some minor dietary changes during treatment, and more frequent toothbrushing along with daily flossing. Appointments to adjust braces or pick up a new set of aligners are usually brief and scheduled every 6 to 10 weeks. Visits to the orthodontist to adjust orthodontic appliances or to pick up new aligners will also be scheduled approximately every 6 to 10 weeks. At these appointments, your orthodontist will evaluate the progress of treatment and assess the health of your teeth and gums.

Orthodontists are specialized in correctly aligning your teeth and jaws and have the necessary dental training to provide you with the best smile, making them the right person for orthodontic treatment. However, keep in mind that premature removal of orthodontic appliances may not be in your best interest in obtaining a stable and functional outcome from orthodontic treatment. There may be some initial discomfort when braces are placed or for a short time after they are adjusted, but this is temporary.

Callie Bawcombe
Callie Bawcombe

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