When you wear braces, brushing and flossing are more difficult, but they are also more important than ever. Brush around your brackets and wires for a few additional minutes each day to make sure they’re thoroughly cleaned, and you'll be glad you did when it's time to get your braces removed in a year or two.
Need some tips? Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to brush teeth with braces.
2. Start with the Right Tools
This means brushing using a soft-bristled toothbrush and a fluoride toothpaste that has the American Dental Association seal on the packaging. Medium or firm bristles may make you feel like you're cleaning your teeth better, but these types of brushes have the potential to harm delicate gum tissue. If you have one, an electric toothbrush is fantastic when you’re brushing with braces because the vibration and oscillation is effective in removing plaque and food debris.
3. Brush Thoroughly
Use these illustrations from the American Association of Orthodontics as a guide for how to brush thoroughly. You should:
- Brush above the brackets and wires
- Brush below the brackets and wires
- Brush the chewing surfaces of your teeth
- Brush behind your teeth
Brushing for two minutes is advised for those without braces, but with braces, you'll probably need to brush for a little longer. In other words, you should brush for as long as it takes to clean your teeth and braces. When you're through, the metal on your brackets should be shiny and metallic, not dull and gray. Brush your teeth at least twice a day, but try to also brush after each meal when possible.
4. Fluoride Rinses
Using a fluoride rinse with the ADA seal is an effective means of preventing cavities while wearing braces. Braces are difficult to clean, and if plaque builds around the brackets often, your teeth may become damaged over time. You may notice white spot lesions on your enamel, which are a type of pre-cavity. These white stains or spots can be difficult to remove and are often permanent.
Use a fluoride rinse after brushing and flossing to prevent tooth decay and white spots. After you’re done eating and drinking for the day, rinse with fluoride before going to bed. If Dr. Stachel thinks you are at high risk for cavities around your braces, she may advise you to rinse more frequently.
5. Floss Daily
While flossing is great no matter what time of day you do it, we recommend flossing at night rather than in the morning, if you can, to ensure that you've removed any food debris that may have collected between your brackets and teeth over the course of the day. Many patients wonder if they need a water flosser to make the process easier, but string floss is just fine as long as you have the patience to get the job done right. Waxed floss, rather than unwaxed floss, is less prone to shredding if it gets stuck in your brackets.
Thread the floss under the wire using your fingers or a floss threader, then floss as usual, carefully pushing and pulling the string back and forth all the way to the gum line.
6. Try an Interproximal or Interdental Brush
These are little brushes that fit under the wires of your braces to help you clean your teeth and brackets more effectively. Interdental brushes are particularly useful for cleaning plaque from the sides of your brackets. If your teeth aren't excessively crowded, you might even be able to use one of these brushes instead of dental floss to clean in between them.
Why Good Oral Hygiene Matters with Braces
Because plaque can build up quickly during orthodontic treatment if you’re not careful with your dental hygiene habits, the risk of gingivitis, tooth decay, and even gum disease increases. Not brushing adequately when you have braces can also result in cosmetic imperfections like yellowing and stains, in addition to dental health concerns. You don't want to need additional dental treatments once your braces are removed because you didn’t brush well!