LIFE WITH BRACES
Excellent dental hygiene practices are paramount for successful orthodontic treatment. Braces themselves do not damage the teeth or gums however the bacteria and food debris that accumulate around the surfaces of the brackets and wires can and likely will if they are not adequately brushed and flossed away. Patients with insufficient oral hygiene are susceptible to cavities, periodontal disease, bad breath and white spots persisting on their teeth after braces are removed.
Proper brushing and flossing is the best way to ensure that your teeth and gums will stay healthy not only during treatment, but also after your braces are removed. Our staff will communicate with you during each appointment to inform you of your current hygiene status and offer oral hygiene instruction if necessary. Additionally, new patient kits are administered at the beginning of treatment to aid you in your quest to maintain perfect oral health.
We also advise patients to continue to see their regular dentist for routine check-ups, cleanings, and any necessary restorative treatment during their time in braces. While it is important to maintain these professional visits, good daily practices at home are the most important factor in maintaining a healthy smile throughout treatment.
- Soft bristles are recommended as they are the most gentle for your teeth and gums.
- When used properly, regular toothbrushes work great, however some patients prefer electric toothbrushes that offer a more automated brushing motion.
- Teeth are not clean until all surfaces are brushed! This means that the front, back and chewing surfaces all need adequate brushing.
- Placing half of the brush bristles on the tooth and half on the gums is recommended when brushing the front and back surfaces of teeth. These are areas that are commonly missed during brushing and using this brush position will help keep the gums healthier and happier. Use a small circular motion when moving the brush from one area to the next.
- Brush twice a day at a minimum (once in the AM after waking up and once in the PM before crawling into bed). Additional brushing after meals will only help to keep your mouth cleaner.
- Flossing can be a bit trickier with braces on however it still needs to be done once a day. Brushing cleans the front, back and chewing surfaces of the teeth but floss is required to clean in between the teeth.
- Using a floss threader can help get the floss into the proper position behind the wire.
- Use a mirror to help you see the position of the floss relative to your teeth. Start with the tip of the floss below the wire and slowly guide it with your finger tips behind the wire until it peers out over the top, where you can grab it with your opposite fingers.
- Snap the floss in between the teeth and rub it in an up-and-down manner while pulling it towards both surfaces of the teeth.
- Slowly pull the floss out below the wire, reposition it at the next site, and repeat the above steps.
FOOD AND BEVERAGES
- It is likely that you will feel some discomfort in your teeth while eating, especially when braces are new to you. That sensation is completely normal and occurs because the teeth have begun to move. Normally this discomfort subsides within a couple of days. Sticking to a soft food diet can greatly help reduce this discomfort in the meantime.
- Hard, crunchy foods are great at breaking off braces. These foods need to be avoided while braces are on so that the brackets and wires stay in place and continue working to straighten your teeth.
- Sticky foods are also excellent at pulling braces off of teeth. These also should be steered clear of during orthodontic treatment.
- Fruits and vegetables should be cut into smaller, bite-sized pieces before eaten. Biting into an apple or crunching on large carrots are proven to break appliances. Soft or steam-cooked are preferable over crispy and crunchy.
- Food and beverages with more sugars and carbohydrates have a greater potential for causing decay and gum disease. The bacteria inherent to your mouth love to consume these foods just as much as you do and in the process of doing so, produce a harmful acid as a waste product. Reducing the quantity of sugar in your diet means reducing the amount of acid that can damage your teeth and gums.
- Drink lots of water! Not only will you stay well hydrated but the water will also help flush food debris away from your teeth and act to neutralize the acid produced by oral bacteria.
- Biting on fingernails and chewing on pens, pencils or other objects can cause bracket breakage. These habits should be avoided during treatment.
- Ice chewing is a bracket killer! This is an almost guaranteed way to break your appliances off during treatment. Please make every effort to discontinue while in braces.
- Thumb or finger sucking can have dramatic consequences and need to be accounted for before treatment is initiated. Be sure to tell Dr. Bacon if you partake in this type of behavior during your complimentary orthodontic consultation.
- Snoring and restricted breathing while sleeping may also be important factors in determining what treatment plan is most appropriate for you. Like thumb and finger sucking, this should be discussed at the initial examination.
Emergencies can happen but most do not require immediate attention from Dr. Bacon. The majority of orthodontic emergencies can be easily taken care of at home, saving you an extra trip to the office. If uncertain, contact us at (503) 666-8000 so that we can advise you on the best method to address the emergency and schedule an appointment if necessary.
The following supplies can help remedy many orthodontic issues that arise during your time away from the office:
- Orthodontic wax
- Sharp wire clippers
- Small sewing scissors
- Cotton swabs
- Salt water
- Topical anesthetic, such as Ora-Gel
Loose or Missing Elastic Tie:
If one of the small, colored elastomeric rubber ties holding the wire to the bracket come off, then a new one will be placed at your next appointment. Loose ties can be put back into place using tweezers or simply snipped with a sharp pair of sewing scissors to remove completely.
When braces are first placed or an adjustment appointment occurs, tooth discomfort can be experienced, especially while eating. This is a common occurrence and the discomfort gradually reduces and subsides within a couple of days. Eating soft foods and swishing with warm salt water will help reduce the discomfort in the meantime.
Some patients are naturally prone to mouth sores. If you have areas of ulceration on the cheeks, lips or tongue, relief can be obtained by applying a small amount of topical anesthetic (such as Ora-Gel) to the area using a cotton swab.
Irritation of Lips and Cheeks:
Irritation is common with new braces. Using a small amount of orthodontic wax can create a smooth barrier between the appliances and the mouth and provide instant relief. Pinch off a small piece of wax from the new patient kit and roll it between your fingers until it is a soft, pea-sized ball. Press the ball onto the area that is causing the irritation, squishing it over and around the bracket and wire so it stays in place. You should notice improved comfort immediately if the wax was correctly placed.
A poking wire can be quite uncomfortable. Use a cotton swab, the blunt end of a toothbrush, spoon or a small pencil eraser to push the wire back against the tooth and out of the way. If clean wire clippers are available, they can also be used to cut and remove the piece of wire that is causing the irritation. Covering the area with wax often times will resolve the issue as well. If the poking wire cannot be remedied, apply wax and contact our office so that an appointment can be scheduled to correct the issue.
If one of the main archwires breaks, contact our office to schedule an emergency appointment. The wire will need to be removed and replaced so that it can work correctly to move the teeth in the appropriate manner.
Loose Brackets or Bands:
If one of the braces breaks loose from a tooth or is sliding on the archwire, please contact the office so that the appropriate next step can be determined. Depending on the stage of treatment, waiting until the next appointment to repair the bracket may be adequate. In other instances, immediate repair is necessary. Wax can be placed on the bracket or band if it is causing irritation to the lips or cheeks.
Swallowed Bracket or Appliance:
In the event that a small bracket or fragment of an appliance was swallowed, it typically passes without any issue. If there is excessive coughing or difficulty breathing, however, the bracket or appliance may have been inhaled rather than swallowed. If you can see the bracket or appliance and are able to remove it safely without damaging the mouth and throat, do so carefully. DO NOT attempt to remove if doing so can cause harm. If it cannot be easily and safely removed, contact our office immediately.