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Bracing Life – Brushing with Braces

Back in October, we discussed the problems that can arise when orthodontic appliances and braces meet up with sugary Halloween treats. Let’s take this one step further now that summer treats are here, and discuss what is required on a daily basis to make sure your child’s teeth and gums stay healthy during orthodontic treatment. In an ideal world, we should all brush after every meal and floss daily. As this is not possible, let’s look at some realistic strategies that your child can do to look after his/her teeth and gums while wearing braces or appliances. 

Brushing with braces is a little different than brushing without braces as there are two areas that require more focus. These are between the braces and the area between the braces and the gums. It is relatively easy to keep the other areas of the teeth clean including the biting surfaces, the inside of the teeth and the areas between the braces and the edges of the teeth. Unfortunately, regular brushing will not get into the areas between the braces and a straight brush tip (like a pipe cleaner) is required. Plaque can quickly accumulate in these problem areas, and if not removed daily, can cause white stains to develop in a relatively short period of time in some patients. This is a sign that the tooth enamel is softening. A white spot can progress to a cavity if plaque is allowed to stay in these areas for a longer period of time. Another common problem caused by plaque is swollen gums that become tender and may bleed with brushing. Again, getting the toothbrush in the area between the braces and the gums will keep this area plaque-free, and the gentle massaging of the gums with the toothbrush helps to keep the gums pink and firm. 

As a parent, it’s impossible to make sure your child is brushing after every meal. A realistic goal would be to make sure that they brush before going to school in the morning and before bed. If plaque is removed daily from these problem areas, there will not be any issues with white stains or cavities around the braces. While at school, rinsing with water after eating would be a good idea. 

As far as flossing is concerned, it is certainly more difficult to clean the areas between the teeth with braces in place. Your child should know how to do this but if flossing is not part of the regular routine already, then it may be too much to expect that they will floss regularly once in treatment. The next best tool for cleaning the hard-to-get areas is a WaterPik or water-flosser type of device. Using this in the daily routine with brushing is a very effective way to minimize damage to the teeth and gums caused by plaque. 

It is unfortunate whenever braces or appliances are removed to see a stain on a front tooth caused by ineffective cleaning. Your orthodontic provider and staff will do their best to encourage and educate during treatment and provide many of the tools needed to get the job done. And remember that besides the overall oral health benefits of daily brushing during orthodontic treatment, teeth tend to move better when the environment is clean and healthy. That should be incentive enough!

Doctors Hill and Gross have the experience to help craft beautiful smiles for all manner of patients, both children and adults.


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