Home Care and Advice
Swords Orthodontics knows that caring for your teeth while you are wearing braces does require a little extra effort, but the payoff once your braces are removed will be worth it. For a start, straight teeth are a lot easier to clean. Just like your teeth, your braces and appliances can build up plaque, so regular brushing and flossing are necessary to keep them clean and to avoid damage to your teeth.
It’s also important to pay attention to the foods you eat since some of them can be damaging to your brackets or wires. If you break part of the brace, you will need to return to our office to have it fixed, but in the meantime, some breakages can be a bit uncomfortable.
Follow these tips to keep your teeth and your braces in great shape.
Dealing With Breakages and Uncomfortable Orthodontic Braces
If you notice anything wrong with your brace, get in touch with Swords Orthodontics straight away and we can give you advice on the phone and schedule an appropriate time to come in to check the problem and fix it. Things particularly worth reporting are:
- Loose brackets
- Loose wires
- Broken wires
- Broken parts on removable braces
- Wires sticking into the cheek or lips
- Sudden pain or swelling in teeth or the mouth
- Sores on the gum or changes in the shape of the teeth
- Loose teeth or teeth falling out – even if it’s baby teeth that were going to fall out anyway
There are a few important reasons why we need to know about breakages:
- It might be uncomfortable or become uncomfortable if it’s not fixed soon.
- There might be a chance that you could/did swallow or inhale part of the brace.
- It might move your teeth in the wrong direction, damage them, or make the original problem worse.
When we put the braces on, we’ll give you instructions on how to deal with the common problems at home (and there’s more information on our YouTube channel too - that’s Swords Ortho TV) and give you some wax for smoothing out any corners or edges that annoy you.
Brushing While Wearing Braces
Cleaning with removable braces is easy – just take the braces out, store them carefully, and clean your teeth. Then clean the braces (in cool water, never hot) and put them back in.
Fixed braces can’t be removed to make cleaning easy, and they are like scaffolding for germs, with more surfaces, edges, corners, nooks, and crannies for germs to attach to and live on. That doesn’t mean they’re impossible to clean; it just takes a bit more effort and a slightly different approach. It’s important that you make the effort because when plaque or tartar is allowed to build up around your brackets, the result could be gum disease or erosion of your teeth. Unfortunately, some of this damage can be permanent.
Like playing many sports, looking after orthodontic braces is all about an effective combination of equipment and technique.
Use a small- to medium-sized, medium-firm toothbrush to clean your teeth. Brush both above and beneath the braces to make sure you get every surface of your tooth as well as your gumline (and the braces themselves). It’s very important to clean the part where the teeth and the gums meet, that’s the bit between the braces and the gums, not just the bit between the braces and the biting edge of the teeth.
We will provide you with a special toothbrush that will help you clean in between the braces, and we’ll show you how to use it as well. Remember that any time you have a question or you aren’t sure about something, you are welcome to call our office.
We also give you a travel toothbrush that can be kept in a pocket or bag for use while you are out of the house. We have a range of toothbrushing supplies in our cupboards just for the situations that arise with wearing braces (and that’s another advantage of going to a specialist orthodontist like Swords Orthodontics!).
Flossing While Wearing Braces
Flossing is just as important while you are wearing braces. Orthodontic treatment can last for many months, and if you don’t floss during that time, you run the risk of developing dental cavities and particularly gum disease. We know that flossing can be a chore at the best of times and while wearing braces it can be a nuisance, but it is still necessary (just like homework or putting petrol in the car).
The classic way to floss your teeth while wearing braces is to start by feeding the floss through the space between the wire and your tooth. From there, wrap the floss around your fingers and floss as normal, in an up-down-direction, not backwards and forwards. Be careful not to pull hard against the wire as you move the floss up and down since the wire could bend, break, or come off the teeth.
The more modern – and simpler – way is to use Superfloss, which is specially designed to floss around braces and fixed dental work like crowns and bridges. It has different sections to it, including a firm plastic end (like the end of a shoelace) that can be directed in between the teeth and a thick spongy part that can be gently moved around in between the teeth to clear away any debris there.
There are other sorts of braces that need their own special flossing and cleaning technique, and if you will be needing one of them, we will give you all the instructions you need to keep them in great shape.
The staff at Swords Orthodontics will provide a demonstration of how this works, which is backed up by our videos on our YouTube channel (Swords Ortho TV), and you should feel free to ask any time you could use a reminder.
Eating With Braces
Your bite muscles are probably the strongest in your body, and they are designed to grind food with teeth that are almost as tough as stones, so the forces and pressures involved in biting and chewing are enormous. When wearing braces, the main thing is to avoid having to chew too much or use your teeth to tear food apart as that puts too much force onto the braces.
Most foods are fine with braces although you may have to cut them into smaller pieces.
Avoid these foods while you are wearing braces:
- Crusty bread and pizza
- Chewy or sticky sweets like caramels or toffee
- Hard sweets like chunky chocolate and boiled sweets
- Nuts and popcorn
- Bubble gum and chewing gum
- Sweets that sit for a long time in the mouth while they dissolve
- Fizzy drinks like colas – even the diet ones aren’t great for teeth as they still have a lot of acid in them
There are still some treat foods or sweets that aren’t a huge problem. Talk to us and we can tell you what they are and when is the safest time to eat them.
Some foods can be eaten with caution, but if you aren’t able to change the way you eat them, then it might be best to avoid them too:
- Apples and hard fruit would need to be cut into small pieces first (applesauce is fine though!)
- Carrots and other extra-crunchy vegetables should also be cut up into small pieces, or you can try steaming them – that will soften them up and still allow them to keep their flavour and nutrition
- Corn-on-the-cob (use a knife to remove it from the cob)
At Swords Orthodontics, we actually have a recipe book for orthodontic brace-friendly recipes; just ask us to give you a copy!
While you are wearing braces, you should also make an effort to break any habits that cause you to chew things that aren’t food like ice, pencils, buttons, zips, or your fingernails since this can also damage your brackets or wires.
After your treatment is complete, you will need to wear a retainer to keep your teeth from shifting out of their new alignment. Your treatment might seem like it went on for a very long time, but it often takes even longer for your gums and jawbone to get used to the new positions of the teeth in the mouth. That’s why we make retainers for all our patients when they complete treatment. Because Swords Orthodontics has an orthodontic laboratory on the premises, we can make retainers relatively quickly to reduce the time you have to take off work or school to fit them.
Most people wear their retainers at night, and we’ll discuss this with you. We advise long-term retainer wear as many people, not just orthodontic patients, experience a burst of crowding in their late teens and early twenties and a slower tendency for teeth to crowd up throughout life.
Swords Orthodontics encounters a lot of people in their 30s enquiring about orthodontics who tell us that they had orthodontics in their teens and didn’t wear their retainers and their teeth have moved. It was gradual at first, but it continued, and after a few years it got to the point where they wanted their nice smile back again, so they came to see us. We don’t want that same sort of thing to happen to our own patients, so please follow the instructions.
Please take care of your retainer! We see too many instances where people have lost a retainer, accidentally stepped on a retainer, or brought it in after the family dog chewed it up. Sometimes it was chewed up by another family’s dog! We will give you a case to keep your retainer in when it is not in your mouth. Write a name and contact number on the box, so if it gets lost, it can be returned to you.
Get in the habit of making sure that your orthodontic retainer is only ever in one of two different places:
- In your mouth
- In your retainer case
If you have any questions about caring for your teeth, your braces, or your retainer, give Swords Orthodontics a call on 01 810 7622. We’re also happy to review these topics at your appointments.