Although braces can eventually lead to a healthier mouth, your teeth and gums could become less healthy while wearing them. That's because the attaching brackets and wires can obstruct brushing and flossing, making it easier for disease-causing dental plaque to accumulate in hard-to-reach places.
But although difficult, it's not impossible to take care of your teeth and gums while wearing braces. Here are a few tips for making it easier to maintain your oral health during orthodontics.
Take more time to brush and floss. Under normal circumstances, it usually takes about two minutes to adequately brush and floss your teeth. While wearing braces, however, you'll need to expand that time to be sure you've worked your brush thoroughly into areas around the brackets and between the wires.
Use specialized hygiene tools. Regular toothbrushes or flossing thread aren't well-suited for maneuvering around braces hardware. An interproximal brush with a narrower head may work better accessing those tight spaces. You may also have more success with a water flosser, which directs a pressurized spray to remove plaque, than with regular floss.
Avoid sugar and processed foods. You already know you need to avoid certain foods like popcorn or chips while wearing braces. Additionally, you should also cut back on foods with added sugar or other refined carbohydrates. Sugar especially feeds the bacteria within dental plaque, which further increases your chances for tooth decay or gum disease.
Boost your fluoride intake. This naturally-occurring chemical has been well-documented to strengthen enamel. Be sure, then, that you're using toothpaste and other oral hygiene products with fluoride. You might also talk to your dentist about a topical fluoride treatment that they can directly apply to your teeth for added protection.
Use antibacterial rinses. To reduce bacterial plaque, your dentist can also prescribe special mouthrinses containing an antibacterial agent called chlorhexidine. Because it can cause staining, however, it's best to only use it on a temporary basis, and under the guidance of your dentist.
In the end, your newly straightened teeth will be easier to clean, which can lower your disease risk over the long-term. But for now, while wearing braces, you'll need to pay closer attention to your teeth's care to keep them healthy.
If you would like more information on dental care while undergoing orthodontic treatment, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Caring for Teeth During Orthodontic Treatment.”