When it comes to maintaining a healthy smile, having a solid dental hygiene routine is essential. While this is an important part of oral care for everyone, it plays a key role in successful orthodontic treatment. The tight spaces between the brackets, wires, and other appliances on your teeth can easily trap food particles. If you aren’t brushing and flossing regularly, this can quickly lead to a build-up of plaque and bacteria. These feed on the sugars that enter your mouth and produce acids that can damage your teeth and gums.
While cavities and tooth decay are frustrating enough on their own, they can also cause secondary oral health issues if left untreated. Here at Manley Orthodontics, we’ve seen firsthand how this can affect a patient’s treatment plan, often by extending the time spent in braces. In more serious cases, braces have had to be removed while waiting for a dentist to resolve problems with the mouth and gums before resuming orthodontic treatment.
Knowing how important your oral health is for a confident smile, you’ll want to ensure you’re making the most of your dental hygiene routine as an orthodontic patient. Let’s brush up on the basics below!
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 snack and meal, but we know that’s not always possible. Try your best to brush 3-4 times a day, for at least two minutes each time to keep food particles and plaque from building up on the teeth, between the braces, and under the wires. For the best results when brushing, follow these simple guidelines:
- Hold the toothbrush against the side of your 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, ensuring 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 even without treatment, but it’s essential that you take the time to do it right if you’re wearing 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 without floss.
You should floss every night before bed, but you might find it comes with a bit of a learning curve when there are brackets and wires to work around! There are products that make this less difficult, including “superfloss,” which has a stiff end that makes it easier to thread it under the wire between brackets, and platypus orthodontic flossers, which have a handle and a flat end that can fit under your orthodontic wire. 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 halfway 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 your teeth are clean!
- Near the gum line, press the floss toward each tooth making a “C-shape” around the side of each tooth so that you can softly move the floss up and down to clean under the gums. Be careful not to apply too much pressure when flossing around the archwire.
- Gently remove the floss, thread it under the wire between the next two teeth, and repeat the steps above as you go.
Flossing effectively with braces can take some getting used to in the beginning, but your speed will increase with practice, so be patient and give yourself time to adjust to the new routine!
Tips for Invisalign patients
Invisalign aligners are made to be removed before you eat, drink anything other than water, and brush your teeth, which makes it easier to keep up with your oral hygiene routine! However, there are some basic guidelines you should follow to ensure your teeth and aligners stay in good shape throughout the treatment process. To start with, always wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before putting your aligners 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 take them out, 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, damage, and accidentally throwing them away (which is a surprisingly common occurrence)!
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 one to two weeks, as recommended by Dr. Manley. 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!
Tools of the trade
We know that your teeth and gums can sometimes feel a little sensitive during orthodontic treatment, so we recommend using a toothbrush with soft bristles. Manual toothbrushes are fine and will get the job done as long as you take the time to brush properly, but they can sometimes leave food particles and plaque behind even if you’re being careful. Electric toothbrushes can provide the extra power to clean those hard-to-reach places, so we encourage you to invest in one during (and after!) treatment.
There’s no particular brand or type of toothpaste you have to use for brushing if you’re an orthodontic patient, but dentists and orthodontists alike recommend a toothpaste with fluoride. Using mouthwash daily can also help get plaque and food particles out of those tiny spaces between the teeth. Mouthwash is also great for rinsing around your brackets if you wear clear or metal braces.
Put your smile in good hands with Manley Orthodontics
Caring for your smile is important, especially when you’re going through orthodontic treatment. Once you’ve brushed up on the basics of orthodontic care, you’ll be able to keep your oral health in tip-top shape 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 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 Manley Orthodontics in Issaquah or Sammamish!