When you have braces, brushing and flossing can be a challenge. How can you do a good job getting your teeth clean with all those brackets and wires in the way? It might not be easy, but it can be done. Here are the step-by-step instructions we give our patients on how to brush teeth with braces.
1. Start By Rinsing
You don’t even need a special mouthwash––just swish some water around to dislodge any food particles in your braces. This step is optional, but if you’ve just eaten, it can be helpful.
2. Use the Right Tools
Always brush with a soft, end-rounded bristle toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste. Electric toothbrushes work well too. Soft bristles do an excellent job cleaning teeth, but they’re also gentle on gums, which protects them from receding.
3. Brush Everywhere
The American Association of Orthodontics has some excellent illustrations if you’re a visual learner, but brushing with braces means:
- Brushing above your braces
- Brushing below your braces
- Brushing the chewing surfaces of your teeth
- Brushing behind your teeth
You should brush for at least 2 minutes. Your braces should look shiny and clean once you’ve finished. Normally, dentists recommend brushing twice a day, but when you have braces, brushing after every meal is optimal.
4. Rinse (Again)
Whether or not you rinsed as a first step, take the time to do another thorough rinse with water or an orthodontist-recommended mouthwash. This washes away the plaque you just finished brushing off of your teeth.
5. Floss Once a Day
We recommend flossing at night to remove any food particles that have accumulated between your teeth throughout the day. Some of our patients use water flossers, but traditional string floss is just fine. Waxed floss is preferable to unwaxed because it’s less likely to catch on your brackets and shred.
Thread the floss under your wires (a floss threader can help with this) and floss as usual, pulling the floss back and forth gently and working all the way up to the gumline.
6. Consider an Interproximal Brush
This is a tool that fits under the wires to give you a little extra cleaning power––it’s great for removing plaque from the sides of your brackets. Sometimes called interdental brushes, if your teeth are not too crowded, you may even be able to clean between them with one of these tools as an alternative to floss.
Why It Matters
When you have braces, it’s more difficult to brush and floss––but it’s also never more important. Because plaque can accumulate so easily on teeth with braces, you’re at a much higher risk of cavities, gingivitis, and even gum disease.
On a more superficial note, there’s also the risk of staining and decalcification, or white marks on the teeth that can be quite noticeable once your braces are removed. Stains aren’t as problematic as cavities and gum issues, but after you’ve invested so much time in straightening your teeth, the last thing you want to do is have to go through cosmetic treatments to whiten them too.
We’re happy to give our patients oral care instructions during their appointments. If you or your child need some brushing tips, contact us at 925-735-1515.