How do I clean my teeth if I have braces?

Good oral hygiene is especially important when braces are present. Brushing regularly, as directed by the dentist, flossing daily and scheduling dental visits can help keep teeth healthy.

Brushing and flossing removes plaque, a sticky film of bacteria that forms on teeth. If plaque is not removed regularly it could lead to tooth decay. When shopping for oral care products, look for those that have the American Dental Association's Seal of Acceptance, an assurance that the product meets the ADA's criteria for safety and effectiveness.

Toothbrushes should be replaced every three months or sooner if the bristles are frayed. Worn toothbrushes won't clean teeth properly.

Patients with braces should maintain a balanced diet and limit between-meal snacks. Your dentist may recommend avoiding certain foods that could interfere with braces or accidentally bend the wires. These foods may include nuts, popcorn, hard candy, ice and sticky foods like chewing gum, caramel or other chewy candy.

A protective mouth guard is recommended for sports and other activities that may result in injury to the mouth or jaw. Your dentist can suggest an appropriate mouth guard when the braces are in place.

We also recommend the use of an electric toothbrush, like Sonicare. This encourages brushing for the recommended 2 minutes and the bristles potentially clean better around the orthodontic wires and brackets.

Peggy Rosen

There are three common methods used to clean when braces and involved:

  1. Flossing: you can floss any areas that you can pass dental floss through. Care must be taken, as too much force or motion around the arch wire can break or dislodge the wire;
  2. Brushing: you can brush normally with your manual toothbrush and use proxabrush to clean between brace; and,
  3. Water irrigation: a device that provides a pulsed, liquid jet stream under pressure to the teeth and all areas of braces including gums.

I found water irrigation to be the most efficient tool to clean the dental brackets and inside gums.

Carol Jahn
Cleaning around brackets and wires is big challenge. Twice daily tooth brushing with a fluoridated toothpaste is essential. Rather than use dental floss, which can be tedious and time consuming with orthodontics, consider interdental brushes or a Water Flosser. In a study with adolescents with orthodontic appliances, the Water Flosser with a specialized Orthodontic Tip was shown to remove 3 times more plaque than brushing and flossing with a floss threaded and 5 times more plaque than brushing alone. Those using the Water Flosser had better gum health as well.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.