Friday, May 15, 2009

Guest Post - Brushing and Flossing With Braces

Brushing & Flossing With Braces

Catherine Manabat is a guest blogger, writing on behalf of the American Association of Orthodontists.

The American Association of Orthodontists is a resource for parents to learn more about orthodontic treatments and provides general tips on how to achieve healthy, beautiful smiles, get braces-friendly recipes, and find an orthodontist near you by using the Find an Orthodontist Locator service. Why should you choose an orthodontist? Orthodontists receive an additional two-to-three years of specialized education beyond dental school to learn the proper way to align and straighten teeth.

Catherine is also a proud former “braceface” and smiles every day to prove it!


When I was a kid, I was not a fan of brushing my teeth. Even though the toothpaste was sparkly, and my Mom bought me the bright pink toothbrush I begged for at the grocery store, I considered plaque removal a painfully annoying waste of my morning. It wasn’t until I got braces when I was 12 that I truly appreciated the amazing cleansing abilities of my toothbrush.

Braces are an important step for many on the road to achieving a healthy, beautiful smile. But all the necessary wires, brackets, and appliances can turn your mouth into a trap for food particles left over from meals, as well as make regular brushing and flossing a little tricky! As with most new routines, learning to properly clean and care for braces takes a little practice. Thankfully, the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) offers several tips to help new orthodontic patients get started.

Patients who wear braces need to brush after every meal. I used to carry a little travel toothbrush with me to school to clean my teeth after lunch, just to make sure nothing was stuck in my wires before heading back to class. The AAO suggests using fluoride toothpaste, along with a soft, rounded-bristle toothbrush to best remove plaque. Replacing toothbrushes often is also important, since braces can wear them out quickly.

A good way to tell if the braces are being brushed correctly is if they look clean, shiny and you can see the edges of the brackets clearly. An Interproximal brush (a small, spiral brush that looks like a pipe-cleaner) can be very helpful to slip under the braces archwire (to reach the itty bitty places your regular toothbrush may miss) and remove plaque and food particles near the brackets.

Flossing with braces can be a little tricky, and it took me a while to get used to. Using a floss threader was very helpful because it allowed me easily get the dental floss underneath the archwire and other tight spaces between the teeth and appliances. Flossing with braces on may seem like a difficult process, but it’s very important. As with anything, a little practice will make it go a lot faster.

Staying away from hard, sticky, crunchy and chewy foods will not only help prevent damage to brackets and wires, but it will make cleaning your braces much easier as these types of foods can be very difficult to remove if they get stuck to your braces. It’s also important to consume sugary items, such as candy and soft drinks, in moderation to prevent cavities while undergoing orthodontic treatment.

If you notice loose or broken brackets after eating or brushing, you should contact the orthodontist’s office to see if your braces need to be checked out for potential repair.

After two years of diligently brushing, flossing, and caring for my braces, it taught me how important it was to really clean your teeth! Many years later, now braces-free, I still floss and brush twice daily with a (new) pink toothbrush… although the paste is not longer sparkly. Needless to say, I’m very grateful that caring for my braces helped me kick the bad brushing habits I developed as a kid (my dentist is happier too.) 

Join the American Association of Orthodontists on Twitter for more tips on braces, braces-friendly recipes, and orthodontists, and share this article with other parents!

3 comments:

Pamela Waterman said...

That's a really good summary of how you can help yourself have a successful braces experience! Another helpful website is www.ArchWired.com, which is called "the website for adults in braces" but which actually has great info for all ages (and for parents of tweens and teens in braces). You might also check out www.Dentakit.com and www.FlossFish.com for some other handy products.

headstrong em said...

Such great info - I agree with Pam, and have been on archedwired before, it's amazing. Another great resource for flossing with braces is www.PlatypusCo.com Not only do they sell the platypus flosser which has saved my mouth - okokok, really my painful gums which are now better thankfully - but they also have great links to informational sites about teeth and hygiene and all sorts of cool stuff. I am in braces and have been for 4 months now - getting better... thanks for the info - em.

flossybraces said...

There's a new kid in town! The easiest, safest way to floss with braces is with the Platypus Ortho Flosser, and it's been shown to increase flossing compliance by up to 80% amongst ortho patients. Check it out: www.platypusco.com