How Should You Brush Your Teeth Properly with Braces?
We very much hope that you will follow the advice provided at my St. Louis orthodontic office and you will avoid chewy and sticky foods while you are wearing your braces. But even if you do, the components of braces, which consist of brackets, wires, rubber bands and springs cannot avoid naturally trapping just about every type of food. As a result, in order to prevent plaque buildup, tooth decay and gum inflammation, you must thoroughly clean your teeth after each meal. So, I have decided to write a post about the best way to maintain good oral health and hygiene with braces.
What type of toothbrush should be used
If you want to use a regular manual toothbrush, then choose a soft one with sleek bristles. If you use a toothbrush with medium bristles, it may wear down the gum line and may cause sensitivity issues over time. At the very least, your toothbrush should have a round head because it is easier to guide around brackets and wires than most rectangular head toothbrushes and as a result the bristles in round toothbrush heads do not get caught in the brackets and wires as often and experience less wear and tear.
But there are better options that can increase your ability to maintain your oral health properly by choosing a specially designed orthodontic toothbrush. You will be able to recognize such toothbrushes because their bristles in the middle are lower than the bristles on their edges and thus they appear to have a "V" shape. These types of toothbrushes are configured to make it easier to clean underneath wires and around brackets. Similarly, there are some orthodontic toothbrushes that are bent at the neck to make it easier to clean braces and there are others with opposing pincer bristles that actually wrap around the braces during cleaning.
It is also helpful to purchase a small spiral dental brush, which resembles a small bottle cleaning brush or pipe cleaner to help clean your braces. This type of toothbrush is often referred to as an interproximal brush or a proxibrush. Another similar device called a rubber-tipped stimulator or gum massager can also be used to help clean food particles from around brackets and under wires.
But the best option for maintaining your oral health is certainly an electric or sonic toothbrush. According to a study at the Harvard School of Dental Medicine, using a sonic toothbrush, such as a Phillips Sonicare or an Oral-B, will significantly reduce your chances of developing gum disease. At my St. Louis orthodontic office, we offer sonic toothbrushes to patients at reduced prices in order to promote improved oral health and we even offer them as prizes for patients who accumulate enough prize points by following our treatment recommendations.
Regardless of which type of toothbrush you choose, be aware that bristles and brush heads will very likely get caught in the brackets and thus they will wear out and need to be replaced much quicker than you have experienced in the past.
What type of floss should be used
It is best to use any type of waxed dental floss and a floss threader, which is a small plastic device that allows you to gently bring standard types of floss under orthodontic wires for each bracket in your mouth. Alternatively, in order to simplify the process, you can purchase some specially manufactured threader floss, which is simply floss produced at various lengths and each segment has a built in threader at its end. By using these products, you will have better control over the floss and you can avoid pulling too hard on orthodontic wires in your mouth in a manner that may damage them. Another product which will enhance, but should not replace the cleaning provided by dental floss is a Waterpik, which when used along with floss will provide a thorough cleaning to the teeth and gums.
What type of toothpaste should be used
If you have especially sensitive teeth or gums, you should choose a toothpaste that will help alleviate your symptoms, which is available at your local drugstore. In addition, you should avoid using a whitening toothpaste because it will not be able to penetrate behind the brackets that are on your teeth and after the braces are removed you will be left with areas on your teeth that are visibly darker than the rest of the teeth.
How should you brush your teeth with braces
It is usually a good idea to begin by rinsing your mouth a couple of times to dislodge any food that can be easily removed from your wires or brackets. You can either use warm water or a pre-brush mouth rinse to do so.
At my St. Louis orthodontic office we provide all new patients with in-person instructions and pointers about how to brush their teeth with braces and maintain their oral health. The reason we do so is that it is best to see an actual example of how to brush your teeth with braces, rather than simply providing a verbal description, and as such I have included a link to an instructional slideshow about this process.