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Braces, wires, springs, rubber bands, and other appliances can attract food and plaque, which can stain your teeth if not brushed away. Most orthodontists recommend brushing after every meal or snack with fluoride toothpaste and carefully removing any food that may have gotten stuck in your braces. Some orthodontists will also prescribe or recommend a fluoride mouthwash, which can get into places in your mouth that a toothbrush can't.
Special Brushing & Flossing Instructions
To floss your teeth, feed the short end of the floss through the space between the main arch wire and the upper portion of the tooth closest to the gum. Use a gentle sawing motion to work the floss on each side of the two teeth the floss is between. Be careful not to pull with too much force around the arch wire. Begin brushing your teeth by using a regular soft toothbrush. Brush down from the top and then up from the bottom on each tooth with braces. Next, brush your teeth with a proxabrush or "Christmas tree" brush. This brush is specially designed for cleaning between two braces. Insert the brush down from the top and then up from the bottom between two braces. Use several strokes in each direction before moving on to the next space between two braces. Repeat the procedure until all teeth have been cleaned.
Foods to Avoid While Wearing Braces
Most of the foods you like can still be eaten if you cut them into small pieces that can be easily chewed. There are certain foods, however, that can break or loosen your braces and should be avoided, such as:
- Hard or tough-to-bite foods, such as apples or bagels
- Chewy foods, such as taffy or caramels
- Corn on the cob
- Hard pretzels, popcorn, nuts and carrots
In addition to foods, do not chew ice or bubble gum.
Caring for Retainers
Every time you brush your teeth, brush your retainer as well. Once a day or
at least once a week, disinfect your retainer by soaking it in a denture
cleanser, such as Efferdent or Polident or other brand name solutions. Add the
cleanser to a cup full of
Playing Sports While Wearing Braces
You can continue to participate in any sport you choose. When playing sports where there is a possibility of getting hit in the mouth, a specially designed mouthguard will need to be worn. The mouthguard, made of durable plastic, is designed to fit comfortably over your braces and will protect the soft tissues inside your mouth.
What to Do if a Bracket or Wire Breaks
Broken braces, loose bands or protruding wires can cause problems but rarely require emergency treatment. However, do call your orthodontist to set up an office visit to fix the problem. If you suffer a more severe mouth or facial injury, seek immediate help. Here's some tips to get you through some of the more common problems until you are able to see your orthodontist:
- Loose brackets. Apply a small piece of orthodontic wax to temporarily reattach loose brackets or place wax over the bracket to provide a cushion between the bracket and your gums and other soft tissues of your mouth. Your orthodontist usually provides orthodontic wax to you when you first get your braces.
- Loose bands. These will need to be replaced or recemented into place. Save the band and schedule an appointment for the repair.
- Protruding or broken wire. Use an eraser end of a pencil to move the wire to a less bothersome position. If you can't move it out of the way, apply a small amount of orthodontic wax over the protruding end. Do not attempt to cut the wire because you might accidentally swallow it or inhale it into your lungs. If a mouth sore develops from the wire poking the inside of your mouth, rinse your mouth with warm salt water or an antiseptic rinse. An over-the-counter dental anesthetic can also be applied to numb the area.
- Loose spacers. These will need to be repositioned or replaced if they slip or fall out completely.
Because braces brush up against the inside surface of your mouth, you may be more prone to developing canker sores. If a canker sore develops, your orthodontist or dentist may prescribe a corticosteroid ointment or a prescription or nonprescription pain-reliever solution to reduce the pain and irritation and help heal the sore.
Reviewed by the doctors at The Cleveland Clinic Department of Dentistry.
Reviewed by Jay H. Rosoff, DDS, on March 1, 2007
Edited by Charlotte E. Grayson, MD, on May 1, 2005.
Portions of this page © The Cleveland Clinic 2000-2005
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