How to brush and floss with braces

Your oral hygiene routine will be slightly more meticulous once you have braces. The way you care for your teeth. Your braces are designed to move your teeth into their ideal positions, correcting bite problems and straightening your smile. You may have your braces for several months, so it is important to know how to take care of your mouth through your journey to straight teeth.

Learn the best oral hygiene practices with this guide to caring for braces:

Oral hygiene obstacles with braces

Your oral hygiene routine will be slightly more meticulous once you have braces. The way you care for your teeth changes slightly when you have to clean around metal brackets. You could spend up to three times longer caring for your teeth than you did before you had braces, but the extra attention is worthwhile to keep your teeth healthy and ensures you have a beautiful smile when you finally get your braces taken off.

Poor oral hygiene with braces can create these obstacles during your treatment plan:

A regular oral hygiene routine helps prevent plaque from forming on the surface of your teeth and causing cavities. Plaque is easier to keep off of straight teeth.

Brushing with braces

When you have braces, brushing your teeth properly takes a few extra steps. Here is the best process for ensuring you brush well:

  1. Remove your bands or elastics: Temporary attachments are designed to come off, and you should change them regularly. You can replace them after you finish brushing over your orthodontic wires.
  2. Clean around your braces: Brush thoroughly around each bracket, but be careful how much pressure you exert as you brush around your wires.
  3. Brush the wires: Move the toothbrush softly from top to bottom to clean all around the wires, making your way over every tooth.
  4. Brush the surface of your teeth: Of course, you want to brush your teeth as well as your braces! Brush at least twice each day, preferably in the morning and before bed. Brush all sides of your teeth with gentle pressure for at least two minutes.
  5. Rise your mouth: Rinse away the toothpaste and then examine your teeth, checking carefully for food particles you might have missed.

Flossing with braces

Every patient should be aware of the importance of flossing with braces. It can take some getting used to, but flossing around your metal brackets is a simple process if you follow these tips:

  • Use waxed floss: Unwaxed floss shreds easily on braces and gets caught between the brackets so you have to pull it out in pieces. Thread the floss under your wire before you pull it gently between two teeth at a time.
  • Floss daily: You should floss your braces at least once each day. The best time to floss is right before you go to bed so you can sleep without food particles stuck between your teeth.
  • Use special products: Dental tape, self-threading dental floss, a floss threader or a similar product can make it easier to get the floss under your wire and help you clean more effectively around braces.
  • Avoid snapping the floss: Be gentle as you move the floss and re-thread it when needed to avoid pulling on the orthodontic wire.
  • Use enough floss: When you thread the floss, use at least 18 inches. If you use too little, you will have trouble reaching between your teeth.
  • Help younger children floss: If you are the parent of a child with braces, you should floss for your child if they lack the fine motor skills to maneuver the floss under the main wire.

Other tools to help with braces oral hygiene

With braces, sometimes flossing and brushing in the usual ways can be challenging or less effective. Here is a list of tools you can use to improve your oral hygiene:

  • A floss threader: Use a floss threader to thread the dental floss under your orthodontic wires. This tool makes flossing quicker and easier. It can help make flossing more accessible for young children or if you have limited mobility in your fingers.
  • An electric toothbrush: A toothbrush with an automatic brushing action can be very helpful when you have braces. The bristles stimulate your gums and get into spots that can be difficult to reach with a manual toothbrush. Some electric toothbrushes come with attachments designed to clean around braces, making it even easier to keep them clean.
  • A Waterpik®: This tool uses pressurized water to clean food particles out of your braces. It is easy to use and works as an effective supplement to traditional flossing between the teeth. Many patients prefer to use this tool over other methods of cleaning food particles out of braces.
  • Mouth rinse: An antiseptic mouthwash can help fight cavities and strengthen your enamel. Use mouth rinse along with other dental hygiene methods. You still need to brush so you can clean your gums thoroughly.
  • Orthodontic wax: Braces can poke into the inside of your cheeks, tongue or lips, causing mild irritation. For places where your braces are always rubbing, try applying orthodontic wax around the edges of your braces. You can also affix some wax to your brackets if they become loose before you make an emergency trip to your orthodontist.
  • An interproximal brush or dental pick: This type of brush is shaped like a pipe cleaner and can easily fit into tight gaps between your braces. It is designed to dislodge food particles and works more quickly than threading dental floss through your braces.
  • Water: Swishing water around in your mouth can help flush out your braces in a pinch. You can carry a bottle with you throughout the day for rinsing out any food that becomes lodged between your teeth after you have a snack. Although this method is a helpful way to clean out your braces, you should still brush and floss regularly.