Braces make cleaning teeth difficult!
I’ve been chatting with the great dental team at Hampstead Orthodontics about the best way to keep your teeth and mouth clean when you have braces. Hope these tips, tools and suggestions make life a little easier for you.
Braces are incredible. Think about it- moving teeth through bone- just awesome! And it actually makes your mouth healthier in the process! Yep! It’s honestly not just cosmetic. Crooked teeth trap and retain plaque, causing cavities and gum disease, which then infect your entire body. What an incredible achievement to straighten them. They look nicer and help you be healthier. Congratulations to you or your loved one for undertaking this adventure.
Long ago, at age 13, I had braces to close the space between my front teeth. I had a diastema and spit water between my teeth like a pro! Cool trick, but according to my mother, not the best attribute for a young lady.
Full metal jacket-type braces were shoved onto my teeth. They were painful, and impossible for a teenager to clean around. Now, if you do not wear your retainer after you get your braces off, teeth move, and mine did just that! The next time around I had the silver brackets cemented on-easier but still not pleasant. Luckily, braces have improved tremendously since those dark ages. Brackets are smaller, and removable appliances like invisalign, the alf and biobloc are so cool! All these orthodontics still need extra attention from you, and you need better tools to keep your teeth clean, prevent tooth decay, and keep the gums healthy. You are investing thousands in your smile, so spend a few hundred on the right tools to protect your investment. It is money WELL spent! Think of it as an investment on your investment!
White Spot Lesions – the start of a cavity
Cavities and braces can go together – unfortunately! Cavities happen when there’s plaque, carbohydrates, acidic mouth environment and bacteria all in the same place- your mouth. Learn more about cavity prevention on my blog posts- “Conquering Cavities in Kids” and “Tooth Decay is Not Okay“. Did you know one third of patients with braces suffer from “white spot lesions”? That’s a sign of plaque bacteria starting a cavity. Let’s get you the right tools to reduce plaque, remineralize teeth, and kill the cavity-causing bacteria!
Gum disease and braces also go together- again thanks to the plaque bacterial biofilm living under wires and around brackets. It’s hard enough to achieve dental health, then you add rubber bands, metal wires, and other hardware. Now it’s almost impossible! Impossible, that is, if you don’t have the right tools.
Read on for some possible suggestions on how to get gunk out from under your braces.
The Mighty Toothbrush:
Electric toothbrush- get one! Yes, I realize they are expensive, but so were braces. More importantly, so are cavities! I like the Sonicare and suggest you use the small brush head. That’ll get around your brackets better. If you have another electric brush you prefer, that’s fine too. In my opinion, electric brushes do a far superior job to manual brushes in a shorter period of time. What takes your electric brush two to four minutes to achieve would take a manual brush about 15 minutes to do. Manual brushes do have their place though.
Braces chew up toothbrush bristles (both electric and manual) quickly. Buy them in the multi-pack and replace them every one to two months. DO swish with water and brush after every meal (for meals with acidic food wait 30 minutes to brush). Food debris sticks to braces and is, to say the least, unsightly!
Braces attract plaque like a magnet. If you leave plaque around your braces, you may find that when they are finally removed, you have white spots on your teeth (see above). That’s from the plaque bacteria sucking out the minerals from your enamel, and that’s the first stage of tooth decay. (Learn about plaque on my blog post: “It’s All About the Plaque, No Tartar“.)
Here’s where I love a manual toothbrush:
Put one in your backpack, purse, car, and at work. Everywhere you are, have access to a manual toothbrush. When you get a chance, after a meal out, a half an hour after your latte–dry brush. Wiggle that manual brush all around your brackets and wires. Clean like a demon! Get the gunk out. Rinse with water. Never leave food or plaque on your teeth and you’ll never have white spot lesions or gum disease!
Two row brush- Sulcus brush
Now for the Fancy Tools:
You may need to look these up on the web or special order them. from your pharmacy counter.
End Tuft toothbrush Perfect for around wires and bands
Sulcus toothbrush- this is a two row manual toothbrush. Perfect for getting around those wires and brackets. Most major toothbrush manufacturers make a sulcus brush.
End tufted toothbrush- another cool brush-it’s a small bundle of bristles and easily reaches everywhere in your mouth. Some companies make them pointy, some make them more blunted. Your choice-pick what works best for you.
Reduce Plaque In Between Teeth:
The toothbrush cleans 60% of the tooth. It cannot reach in between. So, how do you clean the other 40% of your tooth structure? Especially when there are braces to contend with! Plus, hardly anyone likes to floss.
As a dental hygienist, I get that. When I had braces, it would take me over an hour to floss with floss threader. Every time I’d put that threader down, it’d fall off the counter. I spent more time looking for it than flossing. I wish I’d had these tools – they are so much better than that dang floss threader. All are available on Amazon. So many to choose from!
Proxy brushes-Buy them in bulk!
Proxy Brushes– these are sort of like miniature bottle brushes for in-between your teeth. TePe, Dr. Collins Interdental cleaners, Piksters, Oral B, Sunstar. They come in many sizes and shapes.
Rubber Picks– Sunstar makes a pick called Softpicks -they fit everywhere plaque fits.
Plastic Picks– Rotadent Rotapicks,- perfect for a quick clean after lunch or in the car.
The BEST TOOL ever: Orthogami –It’s all about the right tools for the job. These handy handles get you in the back of the mouth and under the wires easily with floss!
Orthogami makes flossing fun
EasyThread Floss- Sometimes you just gotta floss- this floss has built-in threaders and it’s on a spool. Love, love, love it! Beware, it may catch on your wires and shred.
Oral Irrigators- Of all the tools, this one may well become your favorite. THese are my three favorites- I have used them all: Waterpik Ultra, Hydrofloss WaterJet, or ViaJet. These units fit on your bathroom counter and will blast that food out of every nook and cranny. You may become addicted to using it. Start with low pressure and work your way up to higher power slowly. Waterpik has an ortho brush head. ViaJet and Hydroflosser have “sulcus tips”. All are available on Amazon! Gotta love Amazon.
Shower flosser – It attaches to the shower head- This tool may even get your children to use it- if you can get them to shower. Showerpik water flosser– check it out!
Kill Decay Bacteria:
Now, what to use on those brushes and picks that’ll remineralize your teeth, prevent cavities and keep your new beautiful smile healthy?!
Xylitol– five servings of xylitol daily will reduce the amount of plaque attached to your teeth by 60%. Read about xylitol in my post Mouth Magic. It’s natural- made from the bark of birch trees or other plants, and is safe for diabetics. Include it in your daily routines. It’s tasty and so good for you. Every time I get in the car, I pop a xylitol candy in my mouth. Do be absolutely sure to keep it away from the family pet.
Carifree– these products are not on Amazon UK but well worth the money ordering from the company directly. They have a great website where you can learn everything about decay prevention. Their products raise the pH of your mouth, which kills the bad bacteria and lets the good bacteria regrow. They also have toothpaste that’ll put minerals back in your teeth. Carifree took the teachings and research of Dr. John Featherstone and put it all into one neat package to make fighting cavities easier.
Tongue Scraper- by cleaning your tongue twice a day, you will reduce the amount of plaque in your mouth. You have to squeeze the plaque out of the follicles of your tongue. It is truly disgusting to see what you have living on your tongue. In addition to giving you a cleaner mouth it also removes the bacteria responsible for bad breath. (You do have to go all the way to the back of your tongue.) The more you scrape your tongue, the more comfortable you’ll get doing it. I do prefer metal tongue scrapers, they work better. In a pinch, you can flip over a spoon and use that edge.
Colgate Sensitive Pro-Relief- Enamel Repair– Lucky you to have this fabulous product in Europe! While Colgate sells this toothpaste in the US, it does not contain the same ingredients. The UK/Europe version contains the active ingredient Pro-Argin, which remineralizes teeth. Toothpaste, in my opinion, should do more than give you minty breath. It needs to work for you- repel plaque, remineralize teeth, decrease sensitivity, and kill bacteria. This toothpaste does that, and gives you minty breath too! Lucky you!!
Happily, I was able to pick some up as I passed through London this summer on my way back to the States! My favorite US toothpastes- Livionex, baking soda and peroxide, and pastes with xylitol such as Spry.
Fluoride– Yes, I think fluoride is an important tool in making teeth stronger, more resistant to tooth decay. Again, folks in Europe and the UK have access to great “over the counter” pastes like Mirafluor and elmex toothpastes. They contain an amine fluoride that reduces plaque and can keep your mouth healthier. Win-win! My favorite US toothpaste with prescription strength fluoride is Carifree’s CTX4 Gel. It has fluoride, calcium, and phosphate to remineralize teeth, has a neutral pH and also contains xylitol.
The Queen of Dental Hygiene hard at work!
While in braces, I always recommend professional cleanings every three months. Consider your dental hygienist as your Oral Health Coach. He or she can help you keep your mouth healthier, spot troubles before that develop into big problems, and really work with you to customize a homecare routine for you and your needs. Prevention, especially while in braces will keep you healthier and speed your orthodontics along. Insurance may not pay for these extra visits, so do it anyway. Please don’t be penny wise and pound foolish.
A beautiful smile builds confidence
I’ve given you quite a list of tools. Pick out what will work best for you or your child. If something doesn’t seem to fit, go back and try something else. Find the right tools to make cleaning your braces a snap rather than an ordeal. Do it daily! Make the time for it, and your teeth will reward you with a fabulous smile! In addition, your body will be healthier throughout your lifetime.
Thank you for the opportunity to share my “dental pearls” with you. For more information or if you have a question, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org – I look forward to your comments.
Keep Smiling! And wear your retainer 😉
Barbara Tritz RDH, BS, Myofunctional Therapist
P.S. Where you see a highlighted word, click on it. Learn more about how your mouth, airway, swallowing, and breathing all affect your health!