“I have had braces for about two years. I admit that about 70 percent of the days I’ve had them I haven’t brushed more than once a day,” a teenager says in an online forum. He goes on to wonder if he can hold off tooth decay if he were to brush more often. If he came to us, we’d tell him that the answer is “yes,” but there’s also more he could do.
Since food gets stuck in unseen places on teeth when braces surround them, cleaning teeth requires both frequency and special tools. Here are some suggestions:
- Brush after every meal or big snack. The less time food sits on your teeth, the less likely it will cause decay.
- Use a soft bristle brush at a 45 degree angle or an electric toothbrush, which we frequently recommend because it allows you to easily brush each tooth individually. Be sure to brush all sides of your teeth. Fluoride toothpaste is best.
- Use a floss threader or a proxabrush to clean between braces and under wires.
- Use a Water Pik. The pressurized pulsating water it emits removes food particles from hard-to-reach places.
- End your cleanings with a fluoride mouth wash, which helps disinfect under your braces and other spots where a brush can’t reach.
- Even if you can’t brush after every time you eat, carry mouthwash to use after eating. At a minimum, rinse your mouth with plain water. It’s better than nothing.
- Have a dental professional cleaning at least twice a year.
The type of food you eat can also increase the likelihood of decay as well as damage your braces. Any food high in sugar or starch can cause decay. Especially, avoid eating the following:
- Sticky foods such as gum or caramel, which can get stuck on your braces and be hard to remove.
- Crunchy treats like chips and popcorn, which can bend or break your wires.
Eating hard foods like apples, corn on the cob, and carrots can break your braces. Still, they can be part of a healthy diet, so cut them into small pieces so you don’t have to bite down hard.
If you have additional questions about how to care for your teeth, feel free to ask us when you’re in for your next appointment.