How to Maintain Your Braces
If you’ve made the decision to have braces installed, you are on your way to straighter teeth and a confident smile. Your teeth will start adjusting soon after having the braces installed – likely evidenced by the soreness in your mouth by the time you get home. Your first adjustment is likely to cause the most discomfort, although some discomfort should be expected following subsequent adjustments.
Braces use pressure to cause shifts in the teeth along the dental arches. Teeth are able to shift slowly thanks to the soft tissues that surround it, their ligaments, and something called remineralization. As bite forces are exerted on the jaw bone through the tooth roots, the bone of the jaw is signaled to remineralize and fortify that area. Without stimulation from a natural or artificial tooth root, jaw bones will resorb (demineralize).
The brackets placed on the teeth are there to coax your teeth in a direction using pressure. When the ligaments and other soft tissues feel the effects of this, you will notice some discomfort in the mouth. This discomfort should be managed effectively with an over-the-counter pain killer and the pain should subside within 3 or 4 days following the adjustment. Some patients find it helpful to sip ice water or cold drinks to assist in managing the discomfort.
Pain from Wires and Brackets
Braces are excellent at pushing teeth into place, but they aren’t very forgiving to the soft tissues that have to live next to them. Tender spots or small lesions can occur where braces and the inner lining of the cheek meet, and the tissue should be protected as soon as it presents a problem to prevent it getting worse. Your dentist will supply you with a dental wax to press into the brackets on the braces to round hard edges. It is important to wear the wax diligently to prevent sores, and we encourage you to notify us at your next adjustment if the braces are irritating your soft tissues. Numbing gels or other solutions can be explored at your next dental appointment.
What Not to Eat
Now that you have braces, eating is going to take some getting used to. Gone are the days of biting into a cob of corn or an apple. Those front teeth are off-limits as the friction caused when we bite into things could dislodge the brackets from the teeth.
Chewy or sticky candy like licorice or toffee are too sticky to bite into now. The ‘glue’ factor when you bite into a sticky candy is enough to break the brackets off the teeth. We suggest another sweet treat, or, if you must, suck on caramels rather than chewing them. Crunchy foods like popcorn will be difficult to eat now due to both their wear-and-tear on the brackets of the teeth and the likelihood of them getting stuck in your braces. If your teeth are sore from an adjustment, that seems like an excuse to eat chocolate pudding…
Cleaning Your Teeth with Braces
Cleaning your teeth with your new braces will be tedious at first, but by taking your time and establishing a routine, it will become second nature. Braces require the wearer to demonstrate excellent oral hygiene because braces provide much more surface area for plaque bacteria to adhere to, and removing this bacterium is critical to ensure that the health of the teeth is maintained throughout your time with braces. It should be noted that straighter teeth are much easier to clean effectively than crooked teeth are, even with braces on! That means that your oral health may get easier and better with time as your teeth begin to align.
Brushing with Braces
You should set aside additional time to brush your teeth and braces at the end of each day to ensure that you’ve removed as much plaque as possible before going to bed for the night. We also recommend brushing and flossing after each meal during the day.
Use a manual brush to brush sections of the teeth for a minimum of 10 seconds.
- Begin by positioning the brush at a 45-degree angle to the gums against the bracket, working in circles.
- After 10 seconds, place the toothbrush directly on top of the brace (parallel) and brush in circles for 10 seconds.
- Finish the outside of the teeth by placing the brush at a 45-degree angle away on the other side of the bracket.
- Brush the surfaces and insides of teeth, the roof of the mouth and the tongue
- Use an interdental brush to scrub along the brackets on each tooth
Flossing with braces takes some time and effort at first, but with a floss threader from your dentist or the local drug store you’ll master this technique in no-time. Since the arch wires attached to your brackets restrict access to your floss, getting your floss between the teeth and the wire can be a daunting task. A floss threading device has a slightly more rigid composition, making it easy to bend and thread through the arch wires of the teeth. Once threaded through, remove the threader and floss as normal before pulling out the length of floss and moving to the next tooth.