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The Importance of Clean Teeth (Hygiene)

Good Oral Hygiene During Orthodontic Treatment

You, your orthodontist and your family dentist are now a team. You all want the same thing-for you to have a healthy smile with beautiful, white, straight teeth. Your orthodontist will straighten your teeth and your dentist will help keep them clean and check for problems periodically. But you're the one who has to take care of your teeth every single day during treatment to keep them clean, healthy and white. That means closely following the instructions your orthodontist and orthodontic staff provide. Now that you have braces, proper dental care will take a little extra time and effort. But in the end, that time spent will be well worthwhile. By taking good care of your teeth now, you'll get the best possible results from your orthodontic treatment.

Plaque Is The Problem

Plaque is a sticky, colorless film that collects on your teeth. It's composed of bacteria, food and saliva. If plaque and trapped food are left on your teeth and around your braces, they can cause swollen gums, bad breath, cavities and permanent marks on your teeth. Plaque can also discolor your teeth and make them look yellow. To make sure none of these things happen to your teeth, brush often and floss every day. And remember to visit your family dentist regularly for check-ups.

When To Clean:

  • Brush thoroughly at least four times a day: after every meal and before you go to bed.

  • If you can't brush right away after a meal, be sure to at least rinse your mouth well with water until you can brush. That way, you'll clear your braces of most of the large food particles. A travel toothbrush is a great way to make brushing more convenient when you're at school or work.

  • At least once every day, brush your teeth and braces thoroughly until they are spotlessly clean, and then floss. This takes a little extra time, so you may want to do it at night before going to bed so you don't feel rushed.

How To Brush:

  • Use a fluoride toothpaste and a soft, rounded-bristle toothbrush that's in good condition. Because braces wear out a toothbrush quickly, replace your brush as soon as it shows signs of wear.

  • Brush your teeth and braces the way your orthodontist and staff members instruct you.

  • Brush around all the parts of your braces and every surface of your teeth. Remember to brush the backsides of your teeth, and be sure to brush your tongue. Doing this will not only help to remove food particles from your mouth, it will make your breath fresher, too.

  • Brush your gums gently and thoroughly.

  • Rinse thoroughly after brushing. Swish the water all around your mouth and teeth.

  • Inspect your teeth and braces carefully to make sure they are spotless. Look closely in a well-lighted mirror.

Your orthodontist may recommend the use of a "disclosing rinse" that will help you see any places you may have missed with your toothbrush. You may have to brush and rinse two or three times before all the plaque is gone. This may sound difficult, but it's very important. Remember: they are your teeth, and to keep them for the rest of your life you need to take good care of them! A healthy, beautiful smile is worth the effort.

How To Floss:

Flossing is one of the most important parts of taking care of your teeth during your orthodontic treatment. To practice good flossing technique, follow these simple directions:

  • When flossing with braces on, it might be necessary to use what's called a floss threader. This reusable tool allows you to get dental floss underneath your archwire easily.

  • Cut off about 18 inches of floss and loop it through your threader, run the threader under your archwire between two brackets, and, holding one end of the floss, gently pull the threader off.

  • Loop the ends of the floss around your index fingers, forming a "C," and gently floss between your teeth as you normally would. Make sure to carefullyclean along your gumline on both sides. When finished between two teeth, just pull the floss through, re-thread the floss through the loop and repeat the process between your next pair of teeth.

  • It's a good idea to get into the habit of flossing at night before you go to bed. That way, you won't feel as rushed and will take your time. Flossing with braces on may seem like a difficult process, but it's very important. And as with anything, a little practice will make it go a lot faster.

Other Hygiene Helpers

Your orthodontist, dentist or dental hygienist will probably recommend some of the following aids to help keep your teeth clean. If you have any questions about how to use them, don't be shy. Ask the orthodontist, assistant or hygienist to explain them to you.

Interproximal Brush

This tool is designed to slip under your archwire to more completely remove plaque and food partides near your brackets.

Prescription fluoride toothpaste or fluoride rinse

Use once a day as part of your cleaning routine, if prescribed by your orthodontist. For the best results, use it with your interproximal brush to deliver maximum fluoride protection to your teeth. Your orthodontist may also recommend an over-the-counter fluoride rinse.

Electric Toothbrush or Water Irrigator

These devices, such as the Sonicare toothbrush, are designed to make brushing easier and more efficient. In a short-term study the Sonicare toothbrush was clinically proven to be superior to a manual toothbrush in improving gum health in orthodontic patients. Ask your orthodontist if they' d be helpful during your treatment.

New Products

New techniques and technologies are constantly being developed to help improve results from orthodontic treatment. Ask your orthodontist if any new products will help you with your daily dental hygiene.