Making the decision to embrace the recommendations of your dentist and orthodontist to get braces is a short-term investment in yourself that will reap long-term benefits throughout your life. While the braces will work to straighten your teeth, improve your dental function, enhance your smile, and/or correct an overbite, they don’t protect your teeth from cavities, plaque build-up, or gum disease. Maintaining excellent oral health on a daily basis doesn’t get put on hold when you get braces; in fact, since food and plaque can easily get trapped in the little spaces between your braces and wires, it’s more important than ever to be diligent and mindful with the regular cleaning and care of your teeth while you’re wearing braces. Here’s how to protect your smile while wearing braces:
Practice good oral hygiene.
Just as you would if/when you’re not wearing braces, get in the habit of brushing your teeth, gums, and tongue on a regular basis, as well as flossing and rinsing with mouthwash every day. Plan for your oral hygiene routine to take a bit longer once you have your braces on since lots of food and particles can remain hidden between your braces and your teeth even after you think you’ve done a pretty good job of brushing.
Carry a small oral hygiene kit with you.
Packed with a toothbrush, toothpaste, an orthodontic floss threader, and a small bottle of mouthwash, your mobile oral hygiene kit will become a natural part of your daily arsenal (just like your cell phone) whenever you venture out your door. Whether you work outside the home all day, want to spend the afternoon shopping and enjoying lunch with friends, are going on a road trip, or plan to spend an evening out at a local restaurant and then a movie theater, it’s important and necessary to be able to clean and floss your teeth after every snack, light lunch, or 5-course meal. For aesthetic reasons, you certainly don’t want to discover when you get home that you’ve had chunks of spinach stuck in your front teeth all evening long. For health reasons, you don’t want tartar and plaque to build up in those hard-to-see spaces around your braces; neglected for long periods of time, this build-up can lead to not only bad breath, but also further dental health issues with your teeth and gums.
Avoid certain foods.
Even when you aren’t wearing braces, foods and sodas that are sugary or starchy can naturally promote gum disease and tooth decay; this risk is doubled when you are wearing braces, so it’s best to just cut them out of your diet until you get your braces off. In addition, treats and foods like taffy, gum, and caramel that are sticky and chewy can easily stick to your braces and be challenging to remove. Hard candies, ice, popcorn, beef jerky, and nuts can easily loosen your brace’s brackets and break the wires. While apples, carrots, and other healthy (but crunchy) foods are good for you, cut them into small, easily-manageable pieces before you eat them to avoid damaging the wires on the front of your braces.
Watching what you eat, being diligent in your oral hygiene at home, and carrying a small oral hygiene kit with you when you leave the house will help to maintain the integrity of not only your braces, but also your teeth, gums, and overall oral health.