Caring for Teeth With Braces and Retainers

Braces, wires, springs, rubber bands, and other appliances can attract food and plaque, which can stain teeth if not brushed away. Most orthodontists recommend brushing after every meal or snack with fluoride toothpaste and carefully removing any food that may have gotten stuck in your braces. Some orthodontists will also prescribe or recommend a fluoride mouthwash, which can get into places in the mouth that a toothbrush can't reach. A waterpik or airflosser is also sometimes helpful to flush out stuck food.

Flossing & Brushing Tips With Braces

To floss teeth if you have braces, feed the short end of the floss through the space between the main arch wire and the upper portion of the tooth closest to the gum. Use a gentle sawing motion to work the floss on each side of the two teeth the floss is between. Be careful not to pull with too much force around the arch wire. Begin brushing teeth by using a regular soft toothbrush. Brush down from the top and then up from the bottom on each tooth with braces. Next, brush your teeth with a proxabrush or "Christmas tree" brush. This brush is specially designed for cleaning between two braces. Insert the brush down from the top and then up from the bottom between two braces. Use several strokes in each direction before moving on to the next space between two braces. Repeat the procedure until all teeth have been cleaned.

Foods to Avoid While Wearing Braces

While wearing braces, most foods can still be eaten if you cut them into small pieces that can be easily chewed. There are certain foods, however, that can break or loosen braces and should be avoided, such as:

  1. Hard or tough-to-bite foods, such as apples or bagels
  2. Chewy foods, such as taffy or caramels
  3. Corn on the cob
  4. Hard pretzels, popcorn, nuts, and carrots

In addition, do not chew ice or bubble gum.

Caring for Retainers

Every time you brush your teeth, brush your retainer as well, but not with toothpaste. Once a day or at least once a week, disinfect the retainer by soaking it in a denture cleanser, such as Efferdent, Polident, or other brand name solution. Add the cleanser to a cup full of warm -- but never hot -- water. Thoroughly rinse the retainer with plain water before placing it back in your mouth.

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Playing Sports While Wearing Braces

You can continue to participate in any sport if you have braces. When playing sports where there is a possibility of getting hit in the mouth, you'll need to wear a specially designed mouthguard. The mouthguard, made of durable plastic, is designed to fit comfortably over braces and will protect the soft tissues inside your mouth.

What to Do If a Bracket or Wire Breaks

Broken braces, loose bands, or protruding wires can cause problems but rarely require emergency treatment. However, do call your orthodontist to set up an office visit to fix the problem. If you suffer a more severe mouth or facial injury, seek immediate help. Here's some tips to get through some of the more common problems until you are able to see your orthodontist:

  • Loose brackets. Apply a small piece of orthodontic wax to temporarily reattach loose brackets or place wax over the bracket to provide a cushion between the bracket and your gums and other soft tissues of the mouth. Your orthodontist usually provides orthodontic wax to you when you first get braces.
  • Loose bands. These will need to be replaced or recemented into place. Save the band and schedule an appointment for the repair.
  • Protruding or broken wire. Use an eraser end of a pencil to move the wire to a less bothersome position. If you can't move it out of the way, apply a small amount of orthodontic wax over the protruding end. Do not attempt to cut the wire because you might accidentally swallow it or inhale it into your lungs. If a mouth sore develops from the wire poking the inside of your mouth, rinse your mouth with warm salt water or an antiseptic rinse. An over-the-counter dental anesthetic can also be applied to numb the area.
  • Loose spacers. These will need to be repositioned or replaced if they slip or fall out completely.

Other Problems With Braces and Retainers

Because braces and retainers brush up against the inside surface of the mouth, you may be more prone to developing canker sores. If a canker sore develops, your orthodontist or dentist may prescribe a corticosteroid ointment or a prescription or nonprescription solution to reduce the pain and irritation and help heal the sore.



WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Michael Friedman, DDS on January 21, 2015

Sources

SOURCE:

American Dental Association.

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