5 Tips for Maintaining Oral Hygiene During Orthodontic Treatment

Oral hygiene with braces

Fresh Breath and Cavity-Free Teeth With Braces

Practicing good oral hygiene is the key to preventing tooth decay and gum inflammation, also known as gingivitis. Keeping your smile healthy is even more important when you’re wearing braces because the brackets and wires make it easier for food to become trapped.

A popular myth is that braces cause cavities, but this isn’t true. Braces alone won’t cause tooth decay, but because they make oral hygiene a bit trickier, a change in brushing frequency and products is necessary to reduce the risk of cavities.

Here are five things children and teens should do to keep their teeth healthy and clean while wearing braces.

1. Brush more often than usual, particularly after meals or snacks. 

Normally, brushing twice daily for two minutes is enough to keep teeth healthy, but this is no longer the case when wearing metal braces. Brackets and wires mean there is more surface area and more small nooks for food debris, bad bacteria, and plaque to get trapped.

Orthodontists and dentists recommend brushing after every meal to combat any buildup of food and plaque development. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to the gums and take it slowly to ensure teeth are thoroughly cleaned above and below the brackets. It might take longer than two minutes to brush everywhere, especially when braces are new.

Since the brackets and wires can be abrasive, toothbrushes usually wear out more quickly, so parents may need to replace them every one to two months. Frayed bristles drastically impact how well a toothbrush can clean.

2. Stock up on interdental brushes for those hard-to-reach spots. 

Interdental brushes, also called proxy brushes, are very useful dental care tools for cleaning in and around braces. They are small handheld tools with a cleaning end that resembles a tiny pipe cleaner. The bristles help remove food and brush away plaque, while their small size can get into tight spaces toothbrushes can’t.

Properly using an interdental cleaner is easy, but it can take some getting used to at first. These tools come in different sizes, so we recommend trying out a few options to see which are the right sizes for your braces. Once you have the right size, bend the head to form a 90-degree angle and begin cleaning between the wire along the surface of the teeth.

Dr. Mo can show you how to use an interdental cleaner, but if you need a refresher, you can find plenty of videos on YouTube demonstrating how to use these tools.

3. Bump up your daily flossing habit and try using flosser tools. 

Remember that brushing and interdental cleaners aren’t alternatives to flossing. Flossing daily is the minimum recommendation, but kids with braces can floss twice daily, especially after big meals.

String floss is normally the best way to remove plaque and debris in between teeth, but chances aren’t it won’t work very well for braces. Your child can still use string floss if they have teeth without wires or brackets, but otherwise, try using flossers. There is a type called an orthodontic flosser that is specifically designed to make flossing with braces easier.

4. Finish your oral hygiene routine with braces-friendly mouthwash. 

Mouthwash is a great way to finish a routine of flossing, interdental cleaner, and brushing. It flushes out any remaining food debris and cleanses the soft tissues in the mouth from any lingering bacteria.

Most mouthwash is safe for braces, but we recommend using an alcohol-free fluoride mouthwash with antibacterial properties. Alcohol dehydrates, so avoiding products with this ingredient can help your child if they have a dry mouth. Antibacterial properties will still kill bad germs, which is what alcohol normally does anyway.

Fluoride is a great ingredient for supporting strong, healthy teeth and preventing tooth decay, two very important things for children wearing braces. If you’re overwhelmed by all the mouthwash options, call us, and we’ll help you choose the right one.

5. Don’t delay orthodontic appointments or skip your regular dentist.

Wearing braces means you’ll be visiting a dentist more often than usual. It might not seem like your braces are doing much, but they’re slowly making big changes to your smile. Their progress needs to be closely monitored, adjustments made, and wires tightened to ensure your treatment time is as short as possible.

If you’re seeing an orthodontist for braces, you’ll also need to continue seeing a regular dentist every six months for a checkup and cleaning. Better yet, come to Must Love Kids for complete dental care, including orthodontics, all under one roof.

Dr. Mo takes care of children’s teeth and their braces treatment, too!

Orthodontists aren’t the only dental care professionals who provide braces. Dr. Mo is a pediatric dentist offering several orthodontic solutions for her patients. Most orthodontic cases in children can be easily treated at Must Love Kids, with only the most complex malocclusions (bad bites) requiring a referral to an orthodontic specialist.

Seeing Dr. Mo for orthodontic care greatly benefits parents and children alike. As a parent, you can rest assured that your child will receive the superior level of care they’re already accustomed to as a Must Love Kids patient. Children also feel more comfortable and relaxed knowing their orthodontic appointments are with the same dental care team they’ve grown to love. If your child needs braces in the future or you’re interested in transferring their orthodontic treatment to our office, contact our Vancouver pediatric dentistry office today.