Orthodontist Pasadena Los Angeles Inglewood CA

The Golden Rules of Orthodontic Hygiene and Care

The Importance of Orthodontic Hygiene and Care

Maintaining good oral hygiene is particularly crucial when wearing braces, as it plays a vital role in ensuring overall dental health. The main aim of orthodontic hygiene and care is to prevent complications such as tooth decay, gum disease, and damage to the braces themselves. Neglecting proper dental care during orthodontic treatment can have significant consequences on both oral and overall health.

Inadequate hygiene can lead to various issues:

  • Tooth decay: Food particles easily get trapped between the braces and the teeth, creating an ideal environment for bacteria to thrive. If not removed promptly, these particles can lead to a buildup of plaque, increasing the risk of cavities. Moreover, braces make it harder to clean teeth thoroughly, which exacerbates the problem.
  • Gum disease: Plaque can irritate the gums, leading to inflammation, bleeding, and gum disease. If left untreated, gum disease can cause severe infections, receding gums, and tooth loss.
  • Damage to orthodontic appliances: Poor oral hygiene can cause damage to the braces’ brackets, wires, and bands. Debris and plaque buildup can weaken the adhesive bonds attaching the brackets to the teeth, leading to bracket detachment or even the need for additional orthodontic treatment to correct any undesired tooth movement.

These consequences highlight the importance of maintaining proper orthodontic hygiene and care during treatment. Adhering to a strict daily oral care routine and visiting your dentist or orthodontist regularly will help prevent complications, ensuring you achieve a straighter, healthier smile in the long run.

Brushing Techniques for Braces

Maintaining good oral hygiene while wearing braces is crucial to prevent tooth decay, gum disease, and damage to orthodontic appliances. Proper brushing techniques are essential to keep teeth and gums healthy during orthodontic treatment.

Angle the Toothbrush Correctly

When brushing with braces, it’s important to angle the toothbrush properly to effectively remove plaque from teeth and gums. The bristles should be positioned at a 45-degree angle towards the gumline. This position allows the toothbrush to clean under the wires, where plaque and food particles can accumulate easily.

How Long to Brush

Individuals with braces should brush their teeth for at least two minutes, twice a day. It’s important to divide the mouth into sections and spend adequate time on each area to ensure all surfaces are thoroughly cleaned. This can be achieved by focusing on one quadrant of the mouth at a time.

Areas to Focus On

Pay special attention to areas around the brackets and under the wires, as these are common spots for plaque buildup. Brush the backs and fronts of each tooth, as well as the chewing surfaces, to ensure all areas are cleaned effectively.

Use a Soft-Bristled Toothbrush

A soft-bristled toothbrush is recommended for people with braces, as it effectively cleans without damaging the braces or enamel. Stiff bristles can be too harsh on the teeth and may bend or break the wires on the braces.

Use Fluoride Toothpaste

A fluoride toothpaste should be used to help maintain healthy teeth and protect them from cavities. Fluoride strengthens the enamel and helps prevent tooth decay, which is especially important when wearing braces.

Flossing with Braces

Flossing is an essential part of maintaining good oral hygiene, especially when wearing braces. The brackets and wires of braces can create hard-to-reach areas where food particles and plaque can accumulate, increasing the risk of tooth decay and gum disease. Flossing with braces requires a bit more effort and the use of special tools, but it is crucial to prevent dental problems and ensure the success of your orthodontic treatment.

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Challenges of Flossing with Braces

Flossing with braces can be challenging due to the presence of brackets and wires that can interfere with the floss. However, skipping flossing or not doing it properly can lead to the buildup of plaque and tartar, which can cause gum inflammation, gum disease, and even cavities.

Interdental Cleaning Importance

Interdental cleaning is the process of cleaning between the teeth to remove plaque and food particles that a toothbrush cannot reach. It is particularly important for individuals with braces because the brackets and wires create more spaces where plaque can accumulate. Regular interdental cleaning can help prevent dental problems and maintain good oral hygiene during orthodontic treatment.

Flossing Techniques and Tools

To floss effectively with braces, you can use the following tools and techniques:

Floss Threaders

A floss threader is a small plastic tool that helps you thread dental floss under the main wire of the braces. To use a floss threader, follow these steps:

  1. Cut a piece of dental floss about 18 inches long.
  2. Slide the floss threader, with the floss pulled through, under the main wire near the tooth.
  3. Once the floss is under the wire, gently slide the floss up and down against the tooth surface, moving it in a C-shape to cover the tooth and underneath the gumline.
  4. Repeat for all teeth, using a clean section of floss for each tooth.

Water Flossers

Water flossers, or oral irrigators, are an alternative to traditional floss that use a stream of water to clean between teeth. These devices can be particularly helpful for individuals with braces because they can remove food particles and plaque from hard-to-reach areas without the need for a floss threader. To use a water flosser, follow these guidelines:

  1. Fill the water flosser reservoir with warm water and turn on the device.
  2. Place the tip near the gum line and guide it gently between the teeth.
  3. Hold the tip in place for a few seconds at each location, allowing the water stream to remove plaque and food particles.
  4. Repeat for all teeth, making sure to clean around brackets and under the main wire.

Benefits of Flossing with Braces

Flossing can help remove plaque and food particles that can lead to dental problems such as cavities and gum disease. By flossing regularly and using the right tools, you can help maintain good oral hygiene and ensure the success of your orthodontic treatment. It’s important to make flossing a part of your daily routine, just like brushing, to support both short-term and long-term dental health.

Dietary Considerations

Wearing braces entails more than just maintaining good oral hygiene; it also requires mindful eating habits to ensure the effectiveness of the treatment and the overall health of your teeth and gums. To help avoid damage to your braces and maintain dental health, it’s important to be aware of the potential risks associated with certain foods and drinks.

Foods to Avoid with Braces

  • Hard Foods: Biting into hard foods, such as nuts, hard candies, uncooked carrots, or ice, can put excessive pressure on your braces, potentially damaging them and causing pain or discomfort.
  • Chewy Foods: Foods like bagels, licorice, and chewy candies can clog braces and be difficult to properly clean. The stickiness can also loosen brackets.
  • Crunchy Foods: Starchy or hard-packed foods like chips, popcorn, and granola can get trapped in braces or damage the wires or brackets.
  • Sticky Foods: Sticky foods, such as caramel, taffy, or gummy candy, can be difficult to clean out of brackets and wires, increasing the risk of plaque buildup and tooth decay.
  • Sugary Foods: Consuming excessive sugar can lead to cavities and tooth decay, which can disrupt orthodontic treatment and damage oral health. This includes sugary drinks, syrups, and desserts.
  • Highly Acidic Foods and Drinks: Acidic foods and beverages, like citrus fruits, sodas, and fruit juices, can cause enamel erosion, making teeth more susceptible to decay and staining.
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By avoiding these types of foods and drinks, you’ll help protect your braces and maintain good dental health during orthodontic treatment.

Healthy Foods to Support Orthodontic Health

To support your dental health and allow your braces to function effectively, it’s important to consume a balanced diet rich in essential nutrients. Foods and drinks that are particularly beneficial for individuals with braces include:

  • Fruits and Vegetables: Choosing soft fruits and vegetables, or cutting them into smaller bite-sized pieces, can help reduce damage to braces while still providing essential vitamins and minerals.
  • Lean Proteins: Foods like chicken, turkey, fish, or tofu supply your body with proteins, vitamins, and minerals necessary for maintaining strong, healthy teeth.
  • Calcium-Rich Foods: Dairy products like cheese, yogurt, and milk contain calcium, which is vital for maintaining strong teeth and bones.
  • Whole Grains: Whole grains, found in bread, pasta, and cereal, can provide necessary nutrients and fiber, while also being gentle on braces.
  • Hydration: Drinking plenty of water helps keep your mouth clean and can assist in clearing away food debris that may be trapped in braces.

Remember, by practicing mindful eating and maintaining a balanced diet, you’ll support your orthodontic treatment and contribute to a lifetime of good dental health.

Use of Dental Aids for Maintaining Orthodontic Hygiene

In addition to brushing and flossing properly, various dental aids can help maintain good orthodontic hygiene while wearing braces. Here are some of the tools you can use, along with the benefits they offer:


Proxabrushes, also known as interproximal brushes, are small brushes with bristles that are designed to fit between teeth and around braces. They can effectively clean around brackets, under wires, and in hard-to-reach areas, which can help remove plaque buildup and reduce the risk of gum inflammation. To use a proxabrush:

  • Choose the correct size proxabrush to fit comfortably between your teeth.
  • Insert the brush between the teeth and around the braces, with the bristles facing up.
  • Gently twist and scrub the bristles in a circular motion to remove plaque from around the braces, brackets, and wires.
  • Repeat the process for all areas around your braces to ensure proper cleaning.

Proxabrushes are especially helpful for those who struggle with flossing regularly as they can clean effectively in those hard-to-reach areas.

Interdental Brushes

Interdental brushes, also known as Christmas tree brushes, are another type of specialized dental tool that can help maintain orthodontic hygiene. These brushes, with their elongated bristles, can be threaded between teeth, under wires, and around brackets to effectively clean areas that are difficult to reach with regular brushing or flossing. To use an interdental brush:

  • Choose the appropriate size interdental brush for the area you need to clean.
  • Thread the brush between the teeth, under the wire, and around the bracket, ensuring the bristles are facing up.
  • Gently push and twist the brush to remove plaque and debris from the gum line, bracket, and wire.
  • Repeat the process for all areas around your braces to ensure proper cleaning.

Interdental brushes can be used in conjunction with regular brushing and flossing to maintain excellent oral hygiene while wearing braces.


Mouthwash, such as an antimicrobial or fluoride rinse, can be used to help with dental hygiene while wearing braces. Using a recommended mouthwash can help:

  • Reduce plaque and bacteria in the mouth that can contribute to gum inflammation and tooth decay.
  • Prevent demineralization and promote remineralization of tooth enamel.
  • Alleviate temporary oral irritation caused by braces.
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To use mouthwash:

  1. Perform regular brushing and flossing.
  2. Rinse your mouth with a small amount of the recommended mouthwash.
  3. Swish the mouthwash around your mouth for about 30 seconds, making sure you reach all areas, especially around the braces, brackets, and wires.
  4. Spit out the mouthwash after the recommended time and do not rinse your mouth with water, as this will reduce the effectiveness of the mouthwash.

Using dental aids such as proxabrushes, interdental brushes, and mouthwash will help maintain better oral hygiene and ensure a smoother orthodontic treatment process. Remember to consult your dentist or orthodontist for advice on which dental aids are best suited for your individual needs.

Regular Dental Checkups during Orthodontic Treatment

Maintaining good oral hygiene during orthodontic treatment is essential, but regular dental checkups with your dentist or orthodontist are equally important. These visits play a crucial role in monitoring your progress, addressing any potential issues, and ensuring that your teeth and gums remain healthy during the course of your treatment.

Why Regular Dental Checkups Are Essential

  • Monitoring Treatment Progress: Regular visits to your orthodontist allow them to assess how well your teeth are moving into place. This is important for ensuring that your treatment plan is on track and to make any necessary adjustments to your braces or aligners.
  • Prevention and Early Detection: Dental checkups can help detect issues before they become serious problems. For instance, if there’s a loose wire or broken bracket, it can be fixed before it causes discomfort or delays treatment progress.
  • Professional Cleaning: Braces can make it difficult to clean your teeth thoroughly. Professional cleanings by your dentist will help remove plaque and tartar buildup that you may have missed during your home care routine.

How Often Should You Visit the Dentist?

While you’re wearing braces, you should visit your dentist for a checkup and cleaning every six months, as recommended by the American Dental Association (ADA). If your dentist or orthodontist notices any issues or if you experience discomfort, you may need to visit more frequently.

Preparing for Your Dental Checkup

  • Brush and Floss: Before your appointment, brush and floss thoroughly to remove as much plaque as possible. This will make it easier for your dentist to see any developing issues.
  • Update Your Oral Health Routine: Make a note of any changes to your oral health routine or any new products you’ve started using. This information can be useful for your dentist.
  • Share Concerns: If you have any concerns about your braces, discomfort, or oral health, make sure to communicate them to your dental professional.

The Role of Dental Professionals in Orthodontic Hygiene

Dental professionals play a critical role in maintaining good orthodontic hygiene. They can provide guidance on how to care for your teeth while wearing braces, recommend appropriate dental aids, and show you how to use them effectively. They can also offer advice on dietary choices to support optimal dental health during your treatment.

Long-term Care and Maintenance

After completing orthodontic treatment, it’s crucial to continue following care guidelines to ensure the longevity of your teeth alignment and overall dental health. Here are some essential steps to maintain your beautiful smile even after the braces are off:

Wearing Retainers

Your orthodontist will provide you with a retainer after your braces are removed. It’s essential to wear the retainer as prescribed to maintain your teeth in their new position. Failure to do so may result in a relapse, causing your teeth to shift back to their previous alignment.

Wear your retainer according to your orthodontist’s recommendations, which may be a full-time wear for a short period, followed by nighttime wear.

Maintaining Good Oral Hygiene

As mentioned earlier, maintaining good oral hygiene is vital throughout orthodontic treatment, but it’s also crucial post-treatment. After getting your braces removed, continue to brush your teeth at least twice a day and floss daily. Proper brushing and flossing techniques will help keep your teeth healthy and your gum line clean.

Scheduling Regular Dental Checkups

Regular dental checkups are essential to ensure that your teeth and gums remain healthy. After completing orthodontic treatment, schedule a checkup with your dentist or orthodontist every six months for a thorough examination and professional cleaning.

Regular checkups provide an opportunity for your dental professional to monitor your overall dental health, address any potential concerns, and offer guidance on how to maintain good oral hygiene habits.

Preventing Future Dental Issues

Following these long-term care and maintenance guidelines not only protects the investment made in orthodontic treatment but also contributes to your lifelong dental health. Proper oral hygiene and regular dental checkups will help prevent future dental issues, such as tooth decay, gum disease, and other oral health problems.

Category: Orthodontics