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? In order to help you get the most out of your oral hygiene routine, Dunn & Schreiber Orthodontics is proud to offer you the following tips and tricks for taking care of your teeth while in braces.
Basics of Brushing
Let's start with the basic brushing tools. Either a soft-bristle brush or a bi-level brush (one that has shorter bristles in the middle and longer bristles at the edges) can be effective. When used carefully, an electric toothbrush can work just as well. However, keep the electric brush on a moderate power level, and also make sure the vibrations don’t cause the back of the brush to hit your braces.
To treat your teeth right, brush with a fluoride-based toothpaste at least two times a day (preferably after meals), for at least two minutes each time. Remember to brush all areas of the tooth: outside, inside, and the chewing surfaces as well. Be especially careful to clean the areas between your braces’ wires and your teeth, and between brackets and gums — that's where food particles can easily become trapped and turn into plaque.
For best brushing practices, Drs. Dunn and Schreiber recommends the following brushing technique:
- Beginning on the outside surfaces, place the tips of your toothbrush bristles flat against your teeth.
- Use small circular motions to gently polish the teeth 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 brushing the chewing surfaces of the upper and lower teeth using a firm back-and-forth motion.
- Finally, finish up by carefully brushing the inside surfaces of the teeth the same way you did the outside surfaces.
- Special Brushing Tools
If you're having trouble cleaning the areas near your braces’ brackets and wires, there are some special tools that can help. One is the interdental toothbrush, or “proxabrush.” It has a small tuft of bristles that stick up all around it like a pipe cleaner. You can use it as a means to gently and carefully 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 are trapped in nooks and crannies. While it's easy to use an oral irrigator, keep in mind that it isn't a substitute for a toothbrush or dental floss. Nevertheless, when used in partnership with proper brushing and flossing techniques, it can be very effective.
In addition to brushing, to keep your teeth and gums clean and healthy, it is also important that you floss at least once per day. “But how do you get floss under the archwire of your braces?” some of you may ask.
In truth, 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 floss — under your archwire. Then you grasp the floss from both ends and slide it up and down the sides of 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 of your mouth.
Full DisclosureEver wonder how effective your tooth-cleaning techniques really are? Well, wonder no more. There's actually an accurate way to tell how much your brushing and flossing are benefiting you by means of utilizing special vegetable dyes called “disclosing solutions” or “disclosing tablets.”
When these solutions or tablets dissolve in your mouth the dyes highlight plaque and food debris that brushing and flossing has missed. The dyed spots are easily removable, and after the fact you'll know for sure whether or not 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 on a road to a brighter smile that can last a lifetime.