Tips for Taking Care of Your Teeth With Braces
According to Shape magazine, one of the latest trends to emerge during the global pandemic is finally straightening your teeth. Why now?
There are a few explanations. First, due to the pandemic, many of us are working remotely part-time or full-time. That also means many of us are attending Zoom meetings and constantly looking at our own faces, day-after-day.
For some, this can begin to wear away at their confidence. "Unlike the still and filtered selfies of social media, Zoom displays an unedited version of oneself in motion, a self-depiction very few people are used to seeing on a daily basis," medical journal Facial Plastic Surgery and Aesthetic Medicine write.
Plus, pandemic-related stress is taking its toll on our teeth. The American Dental Association (ADA) reveals that, amid the pandemic, 59% more patients report grinding their teeth, 53% more experience jaw pain, and there is a 53% increase in patients seeking treatments for cracked and chipped teeth.
Whether you are straightening your teeth for the first time as an adult, fixing slight imperfections decades after orthodontia, or have children getting braces, it is critical to keep them clean. Follow these practical tips for taking care of your teeth with braces.
1. Brush After Each Meal
2. Floss at Least Once a Day
As with brushing, flossing is a must -- and it is even more important to commit to a regular flossing routine when you have braces. When you have braces and metal brackets, remember to adjust your dental care as necessary. To floss with braces:
- Choose waxed floss. Regular or unwaxed floss can easily get stuck in metal braces, tear or shred, and remain behind. Avoid the hassle by using unwaxed floss, and using plenty of it. Oral B recommends 18-inch strands. Place the floss at the bottom of teeth, under brackets and wires, and gently move the floss up and down. To be extra careful, use floss threaders to avoid getting loose floss stuck in between teeth.
- For especially sensitive gums and teeth, use dental tape to floss. You can start by flossing with dental tape and transition to unwaxed floss once you get the hang of flossing with braces.
- See your dentist. Flossing is easiest with healthy, pink gums. Schedule biannual cleanings to help remove any excess tartar, plaque, and buildup, and keep your gums as healthy as possible. Neglecting professional cleanings may lead to swollen, inflamed, or bleeding gums.
Taking care of your teeth with braces is much like taking care of your teeth without braces. Brushing and flossing remain critically important.
Especially when eating Asian cuisine and other cuisines that include noodles, rice, and other difficult-to-reach foods that get stuck, brushing and flossing remain critically important. Use unwaxed floss and/or floss threaders to avoid tearing or shredding while flossing teeth with braces.
3. Purchase an Oral Irrigator
Sometimes, flossing with braces presents challenges. Brackets, wires, and elastic bands can all get in the way. Flossing teeth individually -- to get under the wire -- can be time-consuming and frustrating. If it becomes too much to handle, there are other options that can make the process easier for you.
According to Colgate, "At-home irrigation systems push water through a device in a thin stream to directly flush around the teeth and orthodontic hardware. You can wash away food, bacteria, plaque, and acids from the hard-to-reach spots of your mouth with these systems."
If you have trouble maneuvering and positioning floss on your own, oral irrigators remove excess particles and bacteria without requiring the same level of precision. When using an oral irrigator or water flosser, start at the back of your mouth and slowly guide the tip of the flosser along your gumline.
Water flossers are nearly as effective as flossing. If possible, it is still recommended to use unwaxed floss from time-to-time. These irrigation systems require an initial investment, ranging from $40 to $200, and last for at least four to six years.
Sometimes, a holistic approach is best. Just like it can be more effective to use a central air conditioning system rather than using a standalone unit in each room, it can be markedly more effective to use a water flosser that flushes hard-to-reach areas of the mouth instead of individually flossing each tooth.
4. Avoid Sticky and Chewy Foods
When taking care of your teeth with braces, preventative care is often best. For example, if you have a leaky faucet in your home, repairing it as soon as possible will yield the most favorable results. A minor bathroom faucet repair, like patching up a small leak or tightening a valve, is much more convenient and much less expensive than fixing a major leak and cleaning up any related water damage. Attending to the little things prevents bigger problems down the road. The same holds true for your teeth.
When you have braces, be especially mindful of preventative care. Taking care of your teeth with braces is much simpler if you avoid sticky and chewy foods altogether. While prying and coaxing sticky residue and pieces of food out of braces is possible if necessary, avoiding certain foods will make your life a whole lot easier.
Here are the top foods to avoid:
- Chewing gum
- Bread, bagels, and pastries
- Chewy candy
A general rule of thumb is to avoid any foods that are sticky or chewy. Remember, food items like bread, pastries, and bagels become chewy and liable to stick around once they are in your mouth. If you have any questions about what foods to avoid, ask your dentist or orthodontist.
5. Don't Bite Into Hard Foods
Hard, crunchy foods may damage your teeth, braces, or dental devices. That means, when taking care of your teeth with braces, it is best to avoid them.
Avoid crunchy fruits and vegetables, like whole apples and raw carrots. Avoid nuts, hard pretzels, hard candy, and ice. Avoid meats and hard rolls that are difficult to chew.
If you choose to eat these foods anyway, these foods may loosen wires or even break the brackets and wires that make up your braces. If you damage your braces, call your orthodontist and schedule an appointment to fix them right away.
6. Obtain Normal Dental Check-Ups
An important part of taking care of your teeth with braces is staying on top of your dental care. That means finding a general dentist you trust and keeping routine appointments, like biannual cleanings.
Like taking care of your teeth with braces is much the same -- brush and floss regularly! -- expect dentist appointments to be similar as well. Your dentist will examine your teeth for any signs of tooth decay or gum disease, and they may take X-rays.
During biannual cleanings, a hygenist will clean your teeth using a scaler and conclude by flossing your teeth with a threader.
These cleanings keep your teeth and gums healthy, and that is especially important when you have braces. Without adequate care, your teeth may be susceptible to decay or you might start showing signs of gum disease.
These problems can make your teeth more difficult to clean, they can cause inflammation and pain, and they can easily make the experience of having braces markedly uncomfortable.
7. Add Some Bathroom Decor to Make Dental Routines More Enjoyable
Sometimes, we all need a little extra motivation. While it may initially seem that bathroom remodeling has very little to do with your teeth, that is not necessarily true. Being comfortable in your surroundings can make you significantly more likely to remember to brush and floss your teeth.
Think about it this way: If your bathroom is a bit of an eyesore -- if you walk inside and must immediately turn away from peeling paint, discolored surfaces, or grimy shower walls -- chances are, you will avoid your bathroom as much as possible.
If your bathroom is an inviting place to be, on the other hand, you will be more likely to stick around and complete your day-to-day routine.
To liven up your bathroom, consider:
- Replacing old cabinets. The bathroom and kitchen are two of the most popular rooms to remodel. Make your bathroom look new by swapping out old, worn cabinets for new ones.
- Paint the walls. A fresh coat of paint can do wonders. To promote relaxation and calm, consider painting your walls gray, light blue, taupe, or green-blue, Bob Vila recommends. Gray is a smart and flexible choice. "The subtle shade softens a room without making it too dim, and it can be decorated any way you wish," Bob Vila continues.
- Let natural let in, and add some plants. Natural light promotes restful sleep and good moods. Similarly, houseplants make the air fresher, filter toxins and allergens out of the room, regulate humidity, and promote positivity. For these reasons, a few, well-chosen houseplants can make all the difference.
Look forward to brushing and taking care of your teeth with braces. Design a bathroom that you want to be in. Make it a calming and relaxing place to be.
8. Watch For Oral Complications
Again, preventative care is more effective and less expensive than reactive care or treating the symptoms of an ongoing problem. Keep an eye out for oral complications, and you can nip them in the bud before they get serious.
Call your dentist if you experience any of the following:
- Gum pain. Know what's normal and what's not. When taking care of teeth with braces, some pain is normal, particularly when you first get braces or you have them tightened. When you first get braces, expect your gums to be sore for roughly a week. Gums may hurt for one to three days when you have them tightened. Otherwise, on a day-to-day basis, it is abnormal to feel significant pain.
- Bleeding. If your gums are regularly bleeding when you brush or floss, that is a sign of gum disease or periodontitis. In some cases, wires or braces may cut into gums and cause them to bleed. If that happens, your orthodontist will ask you to use wax to help protect your gums or they will adjust your braces as necessary.
To prevent serious problems when taking care of your teeth with braces, look for any signs of trouble at home and keep routine appointments with your dentist. Just like a hearing test can help pin down any auditory problems you may have, a dentist will be able to detect gum problems during routine visits.
9. Remain Positive
When taking care of your teeth with braces, do what you can to remain positive and look after your mental health.
Stress can increase the likelihood of teeth grinding, canker sores, and infection. Combat general stress with a nutritious diet, exercise, and self-care (i.e., make time to take a bath or watch Netflix at the end of a stressful day!).
If life events, like a child custody battle, have you down, honestly assess the state of your mental health, and talk to a therapist or find a local support group if necessary.
Keep your gums and teeth healthy while getting the perfect, dazzling white smile you always wanted. Follow these nine tips for taking care of your teeth with braces.