The Importance of Proper Oral Hygiene During Orthodontic Treatment
If you want a healthy smile, then good oral hygiene is important all the time, but never more so when you’re having orthodontic treatment. When you wear braces, your oral hygiene routine is even more critical, because wearing any dental appliance increases the risk of food and bacteria becoming trapped around your teeth.
Why Good Oral Hygiene Is Vital During Orthodontics
Without proper oral care, your risk of developing tooth decay and gum disease is greatly increased. At the very least, you may find you develop unsightly stains on your teeth and especially around the brackets that were fixed onto your teeth during treatment. The big enemy is dental plaque which is a sticky biofilm containing microorganisms and saliva proteins, and plaque allows bacteria that are normally present in the mouth to bind together and to become attached to the tooth surfaces. As more dental plaque builds up, the bacterial colonies grow bigger and bigger, and they even begin to produce a type of matrix which helps to protect these bacteria from the environment in your mouth.
The Potential Threat Your Dental Health
Plaque will build up over the surface of your teeth and gums each day regardless of whether you wear braces, but when braces are fitted onto your teeth, then these orthodontic appliances can make it harder to remove dental plaque. The food that becomes trapped around your braces is the perfect fuel for the microorganisms in plaque. As they feed on the sugars in food, these microorganisms and bacteria create acid which will weaken and eventually dissolve your tooth enamel, causing lesions in the enamel. Initially, these lesions may appear as decalcification spots or white spots on teeth. Without treatment, they can develop into cavities.
Plaque can only be removed mechanically by brushing and flossing your teeth. If you fail to brush and floss thoroughly, then some plaque will remain, and it may even become visible to the naked eye as a whitish or yellowish material. In just a couple of days, plaque begins to incorporate minerals present in your saliva and which allow it to harden into calculus or tartar, a substance that can only be removed during a professional dental cleaning. By this stage, calculus must be removed by being scaled or scraped away because it is so hard. All the time it remains on the teeth, calculus produces toxins.
These bacteria in plaque and calculus can also infect and inflame your gums, causing gum disease which is potentially an extremely serious condition. The inflammation caused by gum disease can cause bleeding and gum recession and may eventually affect the bone supporting your teeth.
With the Proper Care, You Can Maintain Healthy Teeth and Gums
Although keeping your teeth immaculately clean is a little harder to do while wearing braces, it’s still entirely possible to maintain excellent dental health throughout your treatment. There is no need to worry, as Dr. Richard Webster and all our dental team here at Webster Orthodontics are here to help you. It is vital to follow all oral hygiene instructions as carefully as you can and to try to use the proper techniques which we will show you.
Maintaining Your Dental Health during Orthodontic Treatment
When you first have your braces fitted, we will spend some time with you explaining how to keep your teeth, gums, and braces beautifully clean during treatment. Our dental team can provide practical demonstrations on using the proper tools and techniques. You will most likely need some different tools to clean your teeth thoroughly and to clean around your brackets and wires and to help you maintain impeccable oral hygiene. We can also give you lots of advice on following a more tooth-friendly diet. Limiting foods that could increase your risk of tooth decay may be helpful during treatment. We also highly recommend avoiding foods that are very hard or extremely sticky and which could damage your braces, and they can be challenging to remove from dental appliances. Before you have your braces fitted, it’s essential to make sure you have all the hygiene equipment you need, and which may include:
- Plaque disclosing tablets
- Interdental brushes
- Soft-bristled toothbrushes
- Dental floss
- Travel toothbrush and floss
As with any dental routine, brushing and flossing are essential for a healthy smile. It’s best to choose a small headed toothbrush with soft bristles, and you might find it easier to use toothbrushes that have shorter bristles in the middle and longer bristles on the outside (bi-level toothbrushes). These can be very effective for helping to clean around braces. When brushing, apply enough pressure to clean your teeth but don’t brush too hard. For areas that are particularly hard to reach, you can use interdental brushes. These look a little like small Christmas-tree shaped brushes and can be excellent at reaching in between the brackets and wires fitted to your teeth.
Flossing is essential although it is a little harder with braces. Some special products can help you, including floss threaders that are designed to get the floss right in between the wires and the gum line. You may find it easier to use a water flosser during orthodontic treatment. A water flosser squirts pressurized water in between your teeth and can be a highly effective tool to use during and after orthodontics. Once you have finished brushing and flossing your teeth, it’s worth occasionally using a plaque disclosing tablet.
Plaque disclosing tablets are small chewable tablets made from a special dye which is designed to turn any remaining plaque on your teeth a different color to the areas which have been thoroughly brushed and flossed. These tablets can be very educational for anyone who has trouble brushing and flossing, making it easy to see any areas that might have been missed during your regular oral hygiene routine. Fluoride mouthwash can be useful for helping to boost your resistance to tooth decay, but we can provide more information as to whether you need mouthwash and if so which brands are best to try.
Don’t forget to pack a small dental travel kit so you can clean your teeth while away from home and after meals. If you can’t clean your teeth, try to rinse your mouth with water at least to remove any particles of food. It is also important to keep seeing your regular dentist for checkups and professional cleanings.