Tips to Maintain Your Smile After Orthodontic Treatment
To maintain your smile after orthodontic treatment entails a combination of keeping up a good routine of oral hygiene and getting preventive dental care through regular check-ups and professional cleanings.
Orthodontic therapy – particularly with conventional braces – is typically a lengthy process that can be challenging at times. The last thing you want is to see your teeth moving back out of place after months of perseverance.
If you know how to take care of your teeth after orthodontic treatment, your brand-new smile – and your newly straightened teeth – can last a lifetime.
Cosmetic options are also available to keep your smile shining, but the most important post-orthodontic measure is to make sure you wear your retainers. So, we’ll put the importance of retainers at the top of our list of tips to maintain your smile after orthodontic treatment.
1. Wear Your Retainers as Instructed by Your Orthodontist
Retainers play a key role in ensuring your teeth remain in the correct position after orthodontic treatment. They’re a lifelong commitment but give you lifelong benefits.
Without retainers, teeth can shift back to their original position after orthodontic therapy, particularly within the first few months of your braces or aligner treatment being completed.
In fact, the process of formation of new bone to secure your teeth in their new position can take up to a year, during which retainers are essential to help maintain stability.
Retainers can be fixed or removable. Removable retainers are typically worn all the time at first and then just at night. They should be taken out and cleaned at least once a day to remove bacteria.
Ongoing use of retainers – three to five nights a week – is recommended because teeth slowly shift as we get older, and they should be replaced every two to 10 years, depending on the type.
Failing to wear your retainers as instructed by your orthodontist can result in the need for further teeth straightening treatment.
2. Maintain Good Oral Hygiene
A daily routine of thorough brushing and flossing will go a long way toward maintaining your smile after orthodontic treatment.
- Brush your teeth for at least two minutes twice daily with a fluoride toothpaste.
- Get a new toothbrush or electric toothbrush head every three months, or when the bristles show signs of wear.
- Floss daily to remove plaque and food debris from the spaces between your teeth that your toothbrush can’t reach.
Other steps that will help to maintain your smile are:
- Using an antibacterial mouthwash after brushing and flossing.
- Rinsing your mouth with water after eating sugary foods or having drinks such as coffee that can stain your teeth.
3. Get Regular Dental Exams and Professional Cleanings
Regular dental check-ups are imperative to help maintain your smile after orthodontic treatment. The American Dental Association (ADA) says you need to see your dentist every six months.
As well as detecting any problems with your teeth or gums, a check-up usually incorporates a professional cleaning to eliminate bacteria, plaque, and tartar, which can build up even with regular brushing and flossing. Tartar (aka dental calculus or calcified plaque) can only be removed by a dental professional.
A professional cleaning and polishing not only maintains your smile after orthodontic treatment but can help to prevent tooth decay and gum disease and give you fresher breath.
4. Eat Healthily
If you’ve been wearing fixed braces, it can be tempting once they’re removed to dive into all the foods you had to forego to avoid damaging your braces.
However, maintaining a healthy, balanced diet is important to help keep your teeth and gums – and your smile – in top condition after orthodontic care.
Avoid or limit acidic or sugary foods and drinks, and bear in mind that some hard foods, like certain candies, can damage tooth enamel as well as braces.
Try to include these foods in your diet:
- Dairy products – low in acidity and high in calcium, which strengthens teeth. Tip: don’t overdo your consumption of milk – which is high in sugars – and opt for low-fat dairy products if you’re watching your weight.
- Crunchy foods – foods such as raw carrots and celery are high in fiber and act as natural stain removers on your teeth. Tip: although crunchy, apples also contain acid that can damage tooth enamel, so rinse your mouth after eating one.
- Leafy greens – vegetables like spinach and kale are packed with vitamins and minerals and lessen the risk of cavities and gum infection.
- Peppers – like spinach and kale, peppers contain high levels of vitamin C, which helps to keep tooth decay at bay. Tip: use peppers in salads.
- Raisins – stimulate saliva to help prevent stains by neutralizing acids in your mouth.
5. Get Your Teeth Whitened
Removal of your braces provides an ideal opportunity to have your teeth whitened professionally for a gleaming smile.
Because cleaning your teeth properly while wearing braces is difficult, stains are almost inevitable. Many people eager to see their newly straightened teeth after braces are disillusioned when they find their teeth have become discolored.
Teeth whitening by a dental professional works faster and more effectively than whitening toothpastes and over-the-counter DIY teeth bleaching kits.
A single professional teeth whitening treatment usually takes less than an hour and avoids the need for repeat applications of messy store-bought whitening products.
It’s also a good idea to get your teeth whitened first if you’re thinking about another cosmetic option after orthodontic treatment – dental veneers. Veneers – wafer-thin tooth-colored shells – are designed to match adjacent teeth and can’t be whitened to a lighter shade.
6. Consider Teeth Reshaping
Another cosmetic option after orthodontic treatment is teeth reshaping (dental contouring) to enhance the shape and appearance of your teeth to fix minor imperfections.
The procedure entails removal of small amounts of enamel and can usually be completed in a single visit in less than 30 minutes. Once the desired shape has been achieved, your dentist will smooth and polish your teeth.
Benefits of Maintaining Your Smile
Wearing your retainers and eating healthily, combined with conscientious oral healthcare at home and regular dental exams and cleanings, are vital to maintain your smile after orthodontic treatment and keep your mouth healthy.
Cosmetic options such as professional teeth whitening, dental veneers and teeth reshaping are also available if you want to take your new braces-free smile to the next level.
Maintaining your smile and showing off your perfectly straight teeth can have a hugely beneficial impact across many areas of your life, boosting your self-confidence in both social and professional interactions.