Braces aren’t difficult to care for, but it does take some practice to ensure the appliances, teeth and gums remain clean and free of food particles, bacteria, plaque and tartar. Ideally, use a brush with soft, rounded bristles, and have a few extras on hand - braces can cause brushes to wear out more quickly. Brush the tongue and rinse well afterward. Carrying a travel toothbrush will keep braces clean at work and school. Interdental brushes can also be useful for removing food and other debris from around wires. Flossing is also important and, like brushing, it can take some practice to learn the best technique. A special floss “threader” may be useful for getting floss around the wires. For removable appliances, carefully brush and floss the appliance every night and morning using a regular toothbrush and toothpaste to remove plaque and bacteria.
Avoiding foods that are very hard, chewy or very sticky is important to avoid breaking wires or “gumming up” brackets. Try cutting hard fruits like apples in pieces or cutting corn off the cob instead of biting. Cutting other foods like sandwiches and pizza into bite-sized pieces can also help avoid “mashing” foods into brackets, where they can be difficult to remove. Don’t chew gum, ice, or hard candy. Following an adjustment when teeth are more likely to be sensitive, try eating soups, pasta, or nutritious smoothies to reduce discomfort.
Often, irritation can be addressed by applying a special dental wax to the bracket causing irritation, reducing friction and enabling the area to heal. Dental wax can be especially useful at night when lower levels of saliva can increase the risk of irritation. A protruding wire may also be gently pushed up against the tooth using a pencil eraser or cotton swab. If irritation persists, call the office and schedule an appointment to see if the bracket can be adjusted to reduce irritation.