Caring for Your Teeth While in Braces
Best Day Ever
The day you get your braces off should be the best day ever. After months, maybe even years, of hiding your metal mouth and constantly digging food out of the brackets and wires, you will feel a newfound sense of freedom and won’t be able to pass a mirror without smiling at yourself. The end result of orthodontics is always worth the time, money, and effort you put into it. Not only are straight teeth beautiful; they are actually healthier than crooked teeth.
There are two reasons straight teeth are healthy teeth: 1) Many people understand that crowded and crooked teeth allow more plaque accumulation because of the various nooks and crannies created by overlapping and rotated teeth. 2) Research studies have shown that the types of bacteria collecting on crooked teeth are different than the bacteria typically found on straight teeth. They are more periodontopathogenic - more likely to cause periodontal disease!
How the Best Day can become the Worst Day
If the braces come off, and instead of exposing a beautiful, straight smile, a mouth full of discolored and decayed teeth is revealed, the Best Day has now become the Worst Day. Braces create a dental hygiene challenge that many people, especially preteens and teenagers are not aware of or prepared for. The extra apparatuses on the teeth are havens for plaque, bacteria, and food debris, causing a person’s risk for gum disease and cavities to sky-rocket. The most common problem we see after braces is a phenomenon called "white spot lesions" that outline where the bracket was. The white spots are areas of demineralization or weakening of the surface enamel where plaque was allowed to linger for too long and damaged the tooth structure surrounding the bracket.
How to Lower Your Risk for Cavities & Gingivitis
Don’t miss a single dental visit! While you are busy seeing your orthodontist every 4-6 weeks, it is easy to forget your need for dental cleanings and checkups while in braces. Dr. Jason, Dr. Alex and Dr. Serena will be able to reassess your risk for both gum disease and cavities and make recommendations to help you lower your risk. This may include more frequent dental cleanings, a prescription toothpaste, a professional fluoride application, and adjunctive oral hygiene tools for you to use at home.
Additional oral hygiene tools - Braces take cleaning your teeth to a whole new dimension. A manual toothbrush usually will not adequately do the job, and traditional floss is virtually impossible to use alone.
Brushing - An electric toothbrush is a must because it can remove more plaque and bacteria around the brackets more effectively than a manual toothbrush.
Flossing - Using traditional floss requires the addition of something called a floss-threader, which is like a large plastic needle that can be inserted underneath the wire in order to floss between the teeth. An alternative to this is using small pre-threaded floss picks that will fit underneath the wires, called Platypus flossers.
Waterpik - Some people choose to add a Waterpik tool to their oral hygiene regimen. It is an effective way to remove food debris from underneath the orthodontic wires.
Additional oral hygiene products - The specific type of oral hygiene products you use matters when you have orthodontic appliances. There are many products available that can strengthen enamel and make it more resistant to damage from plaque and bacteria.
A prescription fluoride toothpaste or gel - Dr. Jason, Dr. Alex and Dr. Serena will give you recommendations based on your specific risk levels. If they determine that you are high risk for cavities, you may be given a prescription for a special toothpaste or gel to use on your teeth. Make sure to carefully follow the instructions and store any of these products out of the reach of small children.
Mouthwash - A mouthwash is a great way to flush out food debris from around the brackets and wires before you begin the flossing and brushing process. Any alcohol-free mouthwash is appropriate for pre-brush rinsing. Before bed and after brushing and flossing, you should swish with a fluoride-containing mouthwash. Do not rinse your mouth after using this one because the fluoride should stay in contact with your teeth for as long as possible. Our favorite fluoride mouthwash for patients in braces is Phos-Flur.
Questions about Your Risk (or Your Child’s Risk) While in Braces?
Call our office at 605-925-4999 (Freeman) or (605) 928-3363 (Parkston) to schedule your appointment today with Dr. Jason Aanenson, Dr. Alex Whitesell or Dr. Serena Whitesell! They will assess your risk for gingivitis and cavities while in braces and make the appropriate recommendations for your specific risk.