Best To-Do Habits for After Braces
Looking after your teeth and gums properly is essential after your braces have been removed if you want the best results from your orthodontic treatment. A good post-orthodontic routine of oral hygiene at home, backed with professional preventative care, can ensure your teeth remain straight and healthy.
Wearing braces makes effective brushing and flossing difficult. This can over time lead to a build-up of bacterial plaque that hardens into tartar (calculus or calcified plaque), which only a dentist or dental hygienist can remove completely.
The germs in plaque and tartar produce acids that attack tooth enamel and aggravate the gums. This can cause cavities and gingivitis (gum inflammation).
Schedule Professional Cleanings
So, one of the first habits for your to-do list after your braces have been removed should be to get regular professional dental cleanings. Because brushing and flossing is tricky when you have braces, staining or yellowing is commonplace.
The ideal time to begin your schedule of professional cleanings is straight after your braces come off. Most dentists recommend a professional cleaning every six or 12 months to help prevent cavities and gum infections.
If your teeth have become heavily stained after wearing braces, you might like to consider professional tooth whitening. A whitening session usually takes less than an hour to remove plaque, tartar accumulations, and staining. AnaBella Family and Cosmetic Dentistry on the subject of why professional teeth whitening is better then store bought whitening solutions adds, "these methods often end up working against you in the long run as they may irritate your gums and can harm your enamel." You also avoid the need for repeat applications of messy, store-bought whitening products, which are less effective.
Professional teeth whitening is more comfortable and far safer because it’s carried out by a dental health specialist who carefully monitors the process. Your gums and other parts of your mouth are shielded for protection, and the levels of the whitening agent can be adjusted as necessary.
Good Oral Health Habits after Braces
Good oral hygiene at home is important between professional cleaning or whitening. It will keep your newly-straightened teeth in top condition so you can show off your amazing new smile.
Brush at least twice a day, changing your toothbrush (or electric toothbrush head) every three or four months, or when the bristles start to wear. Floss daily to remove plaque and food particles that a toothbrush can’t reach. Make sure you floss each of the spaces between your teeth.
Use an antibacterial mouthwash after brushing and flossing. Rinse your mouth with water after eating anything sugary or having drinks like coffee that can stain your teeth.
Get into the Habit of Wearing Your Retainers
Retainers play a vital role in ensuring your teeth remain in the correct position after removal of your braces.
Without retainers, teeth tend to move back to their original misaligned position. After your braces come off, bone that has disappeared will be replaced with new bone to secure your teeth in their new position. This can take up to a year, and retainers are necessary to help maintain stability.
Patients who have had braces will usually need to wear a fixed or removable retainer for the same length of time they had their braces. At first, retainers are generally worn all the time, and later just at night.
After about 12 months of wearing your retainers constantly, your orthodontist may advise you to continue wearing them three to five times a week for the rest of your life to guarantee your teeth stay in position.
Get into the habit of cleaning your retainers at least once a day.
Healthy Eating Habits after Braces
Once your braces have been removed, you don’t have to worry about maintaining a braces-friendly diet. However, you still need to be careful about your diet immediately after you get your braces off. Your teeth will be sensitive to extreme temperatures, so avoid ice cold and piping hot foods and drinks. It’s also a good idea to stay away from crunchy foods for a few weeks.
In the long term, limit starchy or sugary foods and beverages, which create a breeding ground in your mouth for harmful bacteria. Instead, opt for fruit and vegetables with high levels of vitamin C. Dairy products, including yogurts, milk, and cheese, are rich in calcium, which helps to strengthen bones and tooth enamel.
Good Habits to Avoid Complications
Braces can result in complications, even years after they come off. These issues include gum recession and jaw problems like TMJ (temporomandibular joint) disorders.
To avoid gum recession, try to get into the habit of:
- Using a toothbrush with soft bristles. If you use a manual brush, think about switching to an electric one – they’re gentler on your gums.
- Making an effort not to grind or clench your teeth.
- Wear your retainer as directed by your orthodontist.
Braces can put stress on the jaw joint and muscles. Signs of TMJ disorders include difficulty eating, clicking of the jaw, and headaches.
To reduce the risk of TMJ problems developing after braces, get into the habit of:
- Keeping your facial muscles relaxed.
- Avoiding chewy foods.
- Wearing your retainers as directed.
If you’re concerned about TMJ disorders, ask your orthodontist about dental splints – retainer-like devices that you wear at night to hold the lower jaw in position.
Now’s the Time to Quit Smoking
If you’re a smoker, kicking the habit after having braces removed will help to maintain the smile you and your orthodontist have worked so hard to restore.
Toxins in cigarettes attack the gums, making it easier for germs to build up. Smoking is also linked with illnesses such as cancer and lung and heart disease. If you want to kick the smoking habit to improve your oral hygiene and overall health, your dentist or doctor will be able to advise you about smoking cessation plans.
Need More Help?
Your orthodontic treatment represented a big investment in your oral health. However, when your braces come off, it can be easy to be lulled into a sense of false security, as you admire your braces-free beautiful new smile for the first time.
Adopting good habits after braces is just as important as oral hygiene when you were wearing them, and proper care of your teeth is particularly important during the first few months after removal of braces.
An experienced orthodontist will be able to give you further advice about healthy habits for your to-do list after removal of braces, as well as answer any other questions you may have about orthodontic treatment in general.