Oral Hygiene

The cornerstone to a good oral hygiene regimen is proper brushing and flossing habits. Food particles can accumulate on teeth and in braces, and over time, turn into plaque. The bacteria that results from this accumulation can lead to gum disease, tooth decay and even loss of teeth. To avoid these problems while you are in orthodontic treatment, take special care of your braces, teeth and gums to ensure you will have the best possible result.

Brushing

Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and a small strip of fluoride toothpaste. When you brush your teeth, move the brush in small, circular motions to reach food particles that may be under your gum line. Hold the toothbrush at an angle and brush slowly and carefully, covering all areas between teeth, between braces and the surface of each tooth. It will take you several minutes to thoroughly brush your teeth. Brush up on the lower teeth, down on the upper teeth and the outside, inside and chewing surface of your front and back teeth. Brush your tongue and the roof of your mouth before you rinse.

Especially during orthodontic treatment, brush your teeth four times daily to avoid the accumulation of food particles in your teeth and braces:

  • In the morning after breakfast
  • After lunch or right after school
  • After supper
  • At bedtime

You will need to replace your toothbrush more often due to your appliances. As soon as the bristles start to wear down or fray, replace your toothbrush with a new one. It may be difficult for your toothbrush to reach some areas under your archwire. Do not swallow any toothpaste; rinse your mouth thoroughly with water after you finish brushing. It is important to floss and use an antibacterial mouthwash and fluoride treatment throughout your orthodontic treatment and beyond for optimal oral hygiene.

Flossing

For areas between the teeth that a toothbrush can’t reach, use dental floss to remove food particles and plaque. Flossing takes more time and patience when you are wearing braces, but it is important to floss your teeth every day.

Use the reusable floss threader provided by our office to floss under your archwire daily. Pull a small length of floss from the dispenser through the threader and slide it up and down along the front of each tooth. You will be able to feel when the tooth is clean and hear the squeak of the floss against your clean teeth. Use care around your archwire and do not floss too forcefully around it or put too much pressure on it. After you floss between your archwire and braces, floss between your other teeth and gums.

If you are flossing without the floss threader, pull a small length of floss from the dispenser. Wrap the ends of the floss tightly around your middle fingers. Guide the floss between all teeth to the gum line, pulling out food particles or plaque. Unwrap clean floss from around your fingers as you go, so that you have used the floss from beginning to end when you finish. Floss behind all of your back teeth.

Floss at night to make sure your teeth are clean before you go to bed. When you first begin flossing around your braces, your gums may bleed a little. If the bleeding does not go away after the first few times, inform a staff member at your next appointment.

Tooth Decay Prevention

Tooth decay is a progressive disease resulting in the interaction of bacteria that naturally occur on the teeth and sugars in the everyday diet. Sugar causes a reaction in the bacteria, causing it to produce acids that break down the mineral in teeth, forming a cavity. Dentists remove the decay and fill the tooth using a variety of fillings, restoring the tooth to a healthy state. Nerve damage can result from severe decay and may require a crown (a crown is like a large filling that can cap a tooth, making it stronger or covering it). Avoiding unnecessary decay simply requires strict adherence to a dental hygiene regimen: brushing and flossing twice a day, regular dental checkups, diet control and fluoride treatment. Practicing good hygiene avoids unhealthy teeth and costly treatment.

Sealants

The grooves and depressions that form the chewing surfaces of the back teeth are extremely difficult (if not impossible) to clean of bacteria and food. As the bacteria reacts with the food, acids form and break down the tooth enamel, causing cavities. Recent studies indicate that 88 percent of total cavities in American school children are caused this way.

Tooth sealants protect these susceptible areas by sealing the grooves and depressions, preventing bacteria and food particles from residing in these areas. Sealant material is a resin typically applied to the back teeth, molars and premolars and areas prone to cavities. It lasts for several years but needs to be checked during regular appointments.

Fluoride

Fluoride is a substance that helps teeth become stronger and resistant to decay. Regularly drinking water treated with fluoride and brushing and flossing regularly ensures significantly lower cavities. Dentists can evaluate the level of fluoride in a primary drinking water source and recommend fluoride supplements (usually in tablets or drops), if necessary.