Maintaining a consistent oral hygiene routine is an essential part of preventing dental problems like plaque, tooth decay, and gingivitis. It’s even more important to take good care of your teeth and gums when you’re undergoing orthodontic treatment! Here at Kottemann Orthodontics, we’ve seen cavities and gum disease interrupt the progress patients are making, which can lead to longer treatment times or even affect the final results. That’s why it’s important to brush up on the basics of orthodontic care!
If you’re currently wearing braces or aligners, you already know that keeping your mouth healthy and your appliance clean plays a big role in how successful your treatment is. Keep reading for the best ways to maintain your smile during orthodontic treatment!
Tools of the trade
Orthodontic treatment can sometimes leave your teeth and gums feeling a little sensitive, so we recommend using a toothbrush with soft bristles. Manual toothbrushes are fine and will get the job done as long as you’re taking the time to properly brush, but they can sometimes leave food particles and plaque behind even if you’re being careful. Electric toothbrushes provide the extra power to get those hard-to-reach places, so we recommend investing in one during treatment!
There’s no particular type of toothpaste for brushing if you’re an orthodontic patient, but one with fluoride is recommended by dentists and orthodontists alike. Using mouthwash daily can also help clean those tiny spaces in between the teeth, where food particles may still be trapped. It’s also great for rinsing around your brackets if you have braces.
Tips for braces patients
If you’re new to braces, you may find that you need to adjust the way you brush your teeth and how often you do so. Ideally, you should brush after every meal and snack, but we know that’s not always possible. Try your best to brush 3-4 times a day for at least two minutes each time to keep pesky food particles and plaque from building up in the spaces between your braces and teeth. For the best results when brushing, follow these simple guidelines:
- Hold the toothbrush parallel to the floor against the side of the teeth, moving the toothbrush in small circular motions. Follow the regular curve of the gums and teeth as you go from tooth to tooth.
- Brush each tooth for several seconds, ensuring that all debris is removed along the gum line, between the braces, and on the surface of each tooth.
- Brush each surface of the teeth, including the top, inside, and back. Make sure you get behind the molars, too! Angle the toothbrush upward on the lower teeth and downward on the upper teeth, and remember to get the roof of your mouth and tongue before rinsing.
- To keep your brackets clean and shiny, angle the toothbrush against them with gentle but firm pressure. Don’t forget to brush thoroughly under the wires, too, as lots of icky stuff can collect there.
Flossing properly can be tricky at the best of times, but it’s essential that you take the time to do it right if you’re wearing braces. Even if it seems like you’ve brushed everything away, food particles can be trapped in nooks and crannies that are hard to see and reach.
You should be flossing every night before bed, but you might find it comes with a bit of a learning curve when there are brackets and wires to deal with! There are products to make this less difficult, including “threader floss,” which has a stiff end that permits flossing between brackets, and reusable plastic floss threaders. Use the following guidelines to get the best floss when you’re wearing braces.
- Slide a piece of floss about 18 inches long under the wire, above the space between the two teeth. Insert the floss halfway through, and then hold both ends of the floss. Carefully slide the floss up and down a few times between the teeth. Listen for the slight squeaking sound that means the teeth are clean!
- Floss the gum line with the floss in the shape of a “C,” and below the gum line with a soft up and down motion. Be careful not to apply too much pressure when flossing around the archwire.
- Gently remove the floss, thread it under the next wire, and repeat the steps above as you go.
Flossing effectively with braces can take some getting used to in the beginning, but your speed will increase with practice, so be patient and give yourself time to adjust to the new routine!
Tips for Invisalign patients
Invisalign aligners are made to be removed before you eat, drink anything other than water, and brush your teeth, making your oral hygiene routine easy to keep up with! There are some basic guidelines to follow to ensure your teeth and aligners are in good shape throughout the treatment process, however. To start with, always wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before putting your aligner in. Pay careful attention to your fingernails and fingertips since these come into the closest contact with your mouth and aligners.
You’ll need to care for your aligners when they’re out of your mouth, too! It can be tempting to toss them onto the nearest surface when you remove them, but you should always place aligners in a sealed container or leave them to soak in a cleaning solution when you’re not wearing them. This protects them from germs and also prevents you from accidentally throwing them away (which happens more frequently than you may think!)
Once you’re done eating or your teeth are brushed and flossed, wash your hands again and rinse your aligner well before putting it back in your mouth. Remember that aligners must be worn for 20-22 hours every day throughout the treatment process and switched out for the next in the series every one to two weeks, as recommended by your orthodontist. When you stick to these guidelines, your Invisalign aligners can work just as well as braces, leaving you with a healthy smile that feels good and looks great!
Achieve your best smile with Kottemann Orthodontics
It’s important to take care of your smile, especially when you’re going through orthodontic treatment. By following the guidelines and tips we’ve listed above, you’ll be able to boost your oral health while we work on straightening your teeth!
If you have any questions or concerns about orthodontic care, our expert team is always happy to walk you through the treatment process. If you’d like to learn more about being proactive on your journey towards a more confident smile, get in touch with us today to schedule a FREE consultation or follow-up appointment with Kottemann Orthodontics in Chaska, Maple Grove, Orono, or Plymouth!