You know how important it is to brush and floss properly when you’re wearing braces — but what’s the best way to do that? Let’s start with the basic brushing tools: Either a soft-bristled brush or a bi-level brush (one that has shorter bristles in the middle and longer bristles at the edges) can be effective. Used carefully, an electric toothbrush can work just as well. But be sure the electric brush is set to a moderate power level, and don’t let its vibrations cause the back of the brush to hit the braces!
You should brush with a fluoride toothpaste at least two times per day (preferably after meals), for at least two minutes each time. Remember to brush all of the tooth surfaces: the front, the back, and the chewing surfaces as well. Be especially careful to clean the areas between wires and teeth, and between brackets and gums — that’s where food particles can easily become trapped.
Here’s a suggested brushing technique: Beginning at the front surfaces, place the tips of the bristles flat against your teeth, and use small circular motions to gently polish them clean. For areas between braces and gums, tilt the brush toward the gum line (down for the bottom teeth, up for the top) while keeping up the circular motions. Next, move on to the chewing surfaces of upper and lower teeth, using a firm back-and-forth motion. Finally, finish up by carefully brushing the back surfaces of the teeth the same way you did the front surfaces.
Special Brushing Tools
If you’re having trouble cleaning the areas near brackets and wires, there are some special tools that may help. One is the interdental toothbrush. It has a small tuft of bristles that stick up all around, like a pipe cleaner. Use it gently and carefully to clean the tiny spaces under wires and around bands and brackets.
Another special cleaning tool is the oral irrigator or “water pick.” This device shoots a small stream of pressurized water at your teeth, which can help dislodge bits of food that become trapped in nooks and crannies. While it’s easy to use, an oral irrigator isn’t a substitute for a toothbrush or dental floss — but when used along with proper brushing and flossing techniques, it can be very effective.
To keep your teeth and gums clean and healthy, you need to floss at least once per day. But how do you get floss under the archwire of your braces? It’s not so hard with the help of a floss threader. Using this device is somewhat like threading a needle: You pull one end of floss through the threader, and then push the threader — carrying with it the free end of the floss — under the archwire. Now grasp the floss on each end and slide it up and down the sides of both teeth, and all the way under the gums until you hear a squeaky sound. Finally, pull it out and use a new section of floss for the next area.
Ever wonder how effective your tooth-cleaning techniques really are? There’s an accurate way to tell, using special vegetable dyes called “disclosing solutions” or “disclosing tablets.” As they dissolve in the mouth, these dyes highlight plaque and food debris that brushing has missed. You can then easily remove the dyed spots — and you’ll know for sure if your oral hygiene methods need a little “brushing up.”
Keeping your teeth and gums healthy now is an investment in your future. It enables you to get the best results from your orthodontic treatment, and starts you toward a brighter smile that can last for a lifetime.
Foods to Avoid
While you are wearing braces, please avoid eating hard foods, sticky foods and foods high in sugar. Hard foods can break or damage the wires and brackets, and sticky foods can get caught between the wires and brackets. Minimize the amount of sugary foods you eat; the sugar can cause tooth decay and other related problems.
Examples of Sticky Foods to Avoid:
- Gum (sugar-free or regular)
- Sugar Daddies
- Tootsie Rolls
Examples of Hard Foods to Avoid:
- Hard taco shells
- French bread crust/rolls
- Corn on the cob
- Apples and carrots (unless cut into small pieces)
- Jolly Ranchers
- Pizza crust
- Uncooked carrots (unless cut)
Minimize Sugary Foods like:
- Ice Cream
Only Once a Day:
- Sweetened tea
- Drinks with sugar
We encourage patients to quit bad habits, such as fingernail biting, pencil and pen chewing and chewing on foreign objects. All of these activities can break or damage your braces.
It’s important to regularly check your braces for bent or loose wires and brackets. If you have a loose/broken wire or bracket, please call our office immediately to arrange a repair appointment.
Anything that is attached to your teeth that moves your teeth or corrects your bite.
A wire engaged in orthodontic attachments, affixed to the crowns of two or more teeth and guides the direction of tooth movement.
A thin metal ring, usually stainless steel, which serves to secure orthodontic attachments to a tooth. The band is closely adapted to fit the contours of the tooth and then cemented into place.
An orthodontic attachment made of metal, ceramic or plastic that holds the archwire against each tooth. The archwire fits into a slot in the bracket. Brackets may be attached directly to each tooth or to a band.
Crystalline, alumina, tooth-shade or clear synthetic sapphire brackets that are aesthetically more attractive than conventional metal attachments.
An elastic chain that is used to hold the archwires onto the brackets.
The coil spring fits between brackets and over the archwire.
The removal of cemented orthodontic bands.
elastics (rubber bands)
A tiny rubber ring that ties the archwire into the bracket. Found in numerous colors for better appearance.
A permanent retainer that is bonded to the back side of the front teeth to keep the teeth from shifting from their new position.
An appliance designed to deter thumb or finger sucking habits.
Generic term for extraoral traction (attached around the back side of the head) for growth modification, tooth movement and anchorage.
Fixed or removable appliance designed commonly for overbite problems.
An imprint or mold of the teeth used to design an orthodontic treatment plan.
Interceptive treatment, also known as early treatment, is limited orthodontic treatment usually performed between the ages of 6 and 10. This phase of treatment makes future orthodontic treatment faster and less invasive.
Orthodontic appliances fixed to the interior (tongue) side of teeth.
A growth appliance that helps correct overbites by positioning the patient’s lower jaw forward.
Of or pertaining to the upper jaw. May be used to describe teeth, dental restorations, orthodontic appliances or facial structures.
A mouthpiece that is tailored to provide protection to the braces and teeth while the patient is playing a sport.
Attached to the upper molars through bonding or by cemented bands, the palatal expander is used to create a wider space in the upper jaw.
A permanent image, typically on film, produced by ionizing radiation. Sometimes called an X-ray after the most common source of image-producing radiation.
Any orthodontic appliance, fixed or removable, used to maintain the position of the teeth following corrective treatment.
Small elastics that fit snugly between certain teeth to move them slightly so bands can be placed around them later.
Patients are instructed to place wax over a bracket or poking wire that is causing irritation to the lip or cheek.