A Guide to Braces & Your Oral Health

It’s important to maintain your oral health while wearing braces.


According to Colgate.com, the goal of orthodontic treatment is to “create a healthy bite” which enables the patient to speak and chew better. Not only do patients benefit from more functional teeth, orthodontics can also improve one’s overall health. Braces can relieve headaches, jaw discomfort, improve speech, and even one’s mental health. Individuals can gain more self-esteem by correcting aesthetic issues like a deep bite and severe underbite, reducing their social anxiety and symptoms of depression. These benefits are definitely worth celebrating!

Orthodontic procedures like braces are often the key to proper tooth alignment and a winning smile. They also help to maintain your overall oral health because an abnormal bite can make it harder to remove plaque around the misaligned teeth.

It’s also important to maintain your oral health while wearing braces, however, and taking care of your braces and the teeth underneath them will make your braces more comfortable to wear and assure the health of your teeth and gums. The following recommendations will help guide you.

Brushing & Flossing

Brushing and flossing always are necessary for good oral health. Careful cleaning is important when you wear braces because plaque bacteria can be trapped inside and around them easily. Take off any removable parts of your braces before brushing and then brush at a 45-degree angle around the pins and wires of your braces. Take care to brush each tooth individually, while also flossing once a day.

Brushing Tips

  • With each brushing, be sure to brush every available side of each tooth, including the chewing surface (along the crowns).
  • Brush at an angle along the gum lines to remove plaque and debris from the gumline.
  • Hold the toothbrush vertically to brush behind the front teeth.

Whenever possible, brush immediately after eating. This prevents tiny food particles from getting lodged between the teeth and braces. With braces, a softer toothbrush or electric one tends to work better.  For an electric toothbrush, set the power toothbrush at a low power level, and the back of the brush should not hit the braces. One should brush gently and thoroughly especially the chewing surfaces, sides, backs, tongue and mouth roof. The toothbrush should be replaced every three months or sooner. If you must skip brushing after a snack or meal, at the very least be sure to rinse with water or mouthwash. Failure to brush and floss will lead to plaque. Click here for our complete guide to brushing with braces.

Flossing Tips

Flossing is another healthy habit ones should adhere to. Floss one or more times daily, preferably with waxed floss. It should be done in between the teeth at least once in a day. For the dental floss to reach under the archwires quickly, you can use a floss threader. Avoid foods with high sugar content as well as hard and sticky foods since they tend to remain in between the brackets and wires. Bent, broken or loose wires or brackets should be checked regularly for immediate repair. Use these tips to make sure you are flossing correctly:

  • Use a length of floss approximately 24 inches long.
  • Insert the floss between each pair of touching teeth, including gaps and rear molars.
  • Rub your teeth starting from the gumline to remove hidden plaque.

Special Brushing Tools

There are special tools available if you have difficulty brushing near the brackets and wires of your braces. The interdental toothbrush has a small tuft of bristles that work well for cleaning the tiny spaces around wires, brackets, and bands.

Another effective tool is an oral irrigator, commonly referred to as a water pick. The irrigator shoots a stream of pressurized water at your teeth to help dislodge food that’s trapped in nooks and crannies.

A floss threader, which works in a similar way to threading a needle, is a helpful tool for flossing under the archwire. Just be sure to use a new section of floss for each area of your teeth.

Fluoride: An Aid to Oral Health

When used topically, fluoride can hinder the growth of oral bacteria. In the proper amount, it can also bond with the enamel of your teeth to help strengthen them.

Fluoride Tips

  • Be careful not to swallow fluoride toothpaste, as it can be harmful when taken internally. You’ll notice toothpaste containing fluoride warn against swallowing, whereas non-fluoride toothpaste does not.
  • If your water source is heavily fluoridated, you should use a non-fluoride toothpaste to avoid the condition known as Fluorosis.

Fluorosis symptoms include;

  • Spotty teeth
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Diarrhea

Foods to Avoid with Braces

Wearing braces doesn’t have to keep you from enjoying your favorite meals. You must choose your meals and snacks more carefully while wearing braces. Sticky, chewy, and hard candies and foods may cause damage or make you feel pain. Never chew on ice, and stay away from sugary and starchy foods that promote plaque. However, there are some foods that can cause damage to braces and should be avoided. These include:

  • Hard or tough-to-bite foods (i.e. apples, bagels)
  • Sticky or chewy foods (i.e. taffy, caramel candy)
  • Crunchy foods (i.e. pretzels, popcorn, nuts, or carrots)
  • Corn on the cob
  • Gum
  • Ice

Sticky or chewy foods can get stuck in the braces, and hard or crunchy foods can also get lodged within the braces or can cause them to break when you take a bite.

Did you also know that there are considerable health benefits of braces?

Braces may appear to be burdensome and inconvenient, but it is of inestimable importance presenting with numerous benefits such as;

  • Preventing gum diseases – Improper care of teeth and gums can predispose you to gum diseases and could be an alarm of trouble to your mouth. Braces come in handy by ascertaining the spaces in between your teeth do not make your brushing and flossing difficult. Food particles may lodge in between teeth and lead to more dangerous gum maladies without the brace`s straightening ability.
  • Preventing tooth decay – Improper brushing of teeth also result in tooth decay, a significant hurdle in tooth care. The small crevices accumulate bacteria and bring about acid build up which subsequently corrodes the protective enamel.
  • Helping in digestion – Mastication is compromised in people with misaligned teeth, and so food is not physically broken down into tiny bits. The big chunks are problematic for the stomach to digest hence affecting digestion.
  • Preventing injury – The projected teeth of the upper jaw are more susceptible to breakage during accidents. Braces ensure straightened teeth preventing injuries during accidents related to sports, falling, and car crashes.
  • Preventing bone erosion – Misaligned teeth also present with bone erosions. Braces reduce the vulnerability of the bones to erosion when they realign the teeth.

To find out more about what we do and how we can help you get that smile you’ve always wanted, contact us online at Perfect Smiles Orthodontics or call our office at 703-750-0147. You can also check out our frequently asked questions to get some quick answers to queries that often come up to new or prospective patients. We look forward to helping you with all your dental needs.

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