Brushing with Braces
Brushing and flossing is essential to dental health for every individual, particularly those with braces. Patients with braces should take special care to ensure that they are properly and frequently brushing and flossing. This is because braces create extra areas for food and bacteria to collect. Failure to properly clean the teeth and braces can lead to significant consequences for a patient’s oral health.
How to Floss with Braces
The American Association of Orthodontists recommends that patients floss before brushing. Flossing helps to dislodge food particles that would otherwise build up and collect bacteria. Patients should be sure to floss thoroughly, including under arch wires, along the gum line, and under the gum line.
Patients may wish to utilize a reusable floss threader to help pull floss into the small spaces created by braces. A floss threader is a special loop of fiber that is similar to a fishing line. It helps to thread floss into smaller, more difficult areas such as between brackets and underneath a patient’s arch wire.
How to Brush with Braces
Patients with braces should make sure to get a soft bristle toothbrush. It is important to thoroughly brush all surfaces of the teeth, including the front, back, and sides. A number of toothbrushes are made with special orthodontic heads that facilitate cleaning the teeth and the braces simultaneously. This is achieved through the use of a “dip” in the middle of the brush which causes the middle bristles to be shorter than the outer bristles. This provides even coverage for braces and teeth.
Proxy brushes may help to clean between each bracket and under bracket hooks. A proxy brush may also be colloquially referred to as a “Christmas tree” brush because of the way the bristles come to a narrower point at the top of the brush. Proxy brushes should be gently pushed in and out of the areas that the patient wishes to clean.
Dangers of Not Brushing
Failure to properly brush and floss poses the threat of cavities, periodontal disease, and gum disease. Those with braces are more vulnerable to these conditions, as braces provide a unique “hiding place” for plaque to collect. Plaque is a clear, sticky film that forms over the teeth. It is made of bacteria from saliva and food buildup. If plaque is not effectively cleaned, it can lead to swollen gums, bad breath, cavities, diseases, and permanent stains.
Braces patients who fail to properly brush and floss may develop decalcifications, which are often referred to as “white spots.” Decalcifications are permanent stain marks that can form around the brackets while a patient has braces. These spots become especially noticeable after the braces are removed, and may be unsightly.
How do you brush with your braces?