On the day you get your braces on, one of our team members here at L&M will teach you how to care for your them and take care of your teeth while in orthodontic treatment. The most important part of these instructions, at least in my opinion, is oral hygiene instruction. Since they are so important, and chances are most people forget some of what we say on that exciting day, this blog will be dedicated to the 5 staples of oral hygiene during the orthodontic process.
1) Proper Tooth Brushing Technique
Brushing your teeth is important because it removes the food particles that bacteria use to cause white spot lesions and cavities on your teeth. We recommend our patients brush in the morning, at night before bed, and after every meal. Each brushing should take about 2-3 minutes, and should clean every tooth in the mouth. Try timing yourself next time you brush (you may be surprised how far from 2-3 minutes of brushing you may be).
At our office, we recommend using what is called the circular scrub brushing technique. A good video illustrating this technique can be found on youtube at the following address: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GtSi2IcfynE. To do the circular scrub, start with the brush perpendicular to the braces (at a 90 angle), and brush the surfaces in a circular motion (not back and forth or side to side). Next, tip the brush upward to about 45. Keeping the brush at this position, continue to move the bristles in a circular motion, making sure to get along the gum line and around the wings of the brace. Finally, tip the brush downward to 45, and repeat again. Make sure to brush all of the teeth with braces in this manner. When done, make sure to also get the eating surfaces and backs of each tooth as well. Use an ADA recommended toothpaste, preferably one with fluoride.
2) Proper Flossing Technique
In addition to brushing, flossing is another oral hygiene practice we strongly recommend our patients employ. Flossing cleans the areas between the teeth (you might hear us call this area a contact or embrasure) where a toothbrush cant reach. As a rule of thumb, plan to floss once daily. To help thread the floss around the braces and wires, plan to use floss threaders or superfloss/orthodontic floss. We will give you some on the day you get your braces, and everything we give you can be found in most drugstores.
A good video illustrating proper flossing technique can be found on youtube at the following address: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n_JSmlrmhfU. To begin, take a piece of floss and wrap it around each middle finger, grabbing a length of 1-2 inches between your thumb and forefinger. Guide the floss between the contact point of 2 teeth, then pull it towards one tooth forming a c-shape with the floss around it. Move the floss up and down along the side of the tooth to the gumline in a gentle motion, cleaning any debris from the area. When done, pull the floss into a c-shape around the other tooth in the contact and repeat the up and down motion for this tooth.
A proxabrush is a small brush that can help clean out food and bacteria under the wires if you need a quick brush on the go. These brushes are compact, and can fit in a pocket or a purse. No toothpaste is needed. The bristles are shaped like a Christmas tree. To use these brushes, simply position the tip of the Christmas tree underneath the wire, and work the brush up and down lightly to clean the area. Be careful, though, because if you are rough, you may pull out the wire or break a bracket!
4) Flouride Rinse
Contrary to popular belief, mouthwash does not take the place of brushing and flossing. In fact, for the most part, mouthwash really does little more than freshen your breath. That being said, mouth rinses with fluoride are very beneficial in combatting white spots and decay. During the day, as we know, the teeth are subjected to acid released by the oral bacteria when they break down the food in our mouth. Additionally, foods and drinks with high acidic content also start to break down our enamel. Studies show that rinsing with an ADA approved fluoride rinse helps to remineralize the teeth, and repair some of this damage. When using a rinse, follow the instructions on the bottle. Most often, this means rinsing with the fluoride rinse for about 30-60 seconds, making sure to swish around all of the teeth. Afterward, make sure to spit out the rinse (fluoride, although very helpful in this case, is a chemical and shouldnt be ingested in large quantities. After spitting, do not eat or drink for 30 minutes, to ensure the fluoride can take effect.
5) General Dentist
Although the orthodontist is a dentist, it is still important to see your general dentist for regular check-ups throughout your orthodontic treatment. The general dentist has an important part in oral healthcare, and is still the one that will make sure your mouth is free of decay, periodontal issues, and oral pathology. For most, visits to the general dentist can still be done every 6 months, although sometimes more frequent visits are necessary. Make sure to let your general dentist know that you are beginning orthodontic treatment, and ask what recall schedule he or she would recommend.
I tell all my patients, proper oral hygiene is your most important job when wearing braces. I would rather see healthy crooked teeth than rotten teeth in alignment. Make sure to do your part at home, and if you have any questions, ask one of our team members here at L&M. We cant wait for you to have a Star Smile!