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Getting braces is a huge milestone for kids and teens (and some adults!). When you start treatment with braces, you’re not just looking forward to a straighter, more beautiful smile — you’re starting a journey towards better overall health. That said, it’s not as simple as sticking some braces on your teeth and expecting to walk away with a perfect, healthy, straight set of pearly whites once your braces come off. There are a few things you have to do to get the most of your braces treatment, like brushing and flossing your teeth appropriately and effectively.


We know it’s a tricky subject, though. As an orthodontist in San Diego and Rancho Santa Fe, Dr. Melanie gets this question all the time: how do I brush and floss my teeth with braces? While it does take some extra practice and a certain technique to get it right, you can quickly learn to floss and brush with braces and guarantee you’ll have a healthy smile when your treatment is complete. Ready to dive in? In this post, the Dr. Melanie Orthodontics team will answer all of your questions about brushing and flossing with braces. We’ll share:


  • The importance of brushing and flossing with braces
  • What happens if you don’t brush your teeth with braces
  • The easiest way to floss with braces
  • How to properly brush your teeth with braces
  • Tips and tricks to get the most from your braces treatment


Why is it important to brush and floss with braces?


Most of our San Diego and Rancho Santa Fe orthodontic patients know that they need to brush their teeth twice a day to maintain healthy teeth and gums. Most of them also know that they’re supposed to floss once a day, too (but that doesn’t mean they’re actually doing it!). While brushing regularly is a great place to start, there’s a lot more to oral hygiene than brushing alone — especially when it comes to people undergoing orthodontic treatment.


Without braces, it’s super easy to brush and floss away food particles, plaque build-up and bacteria. You just floss your teeth, then load up your toothbrush with some fluoride toothpaste and do your thing. It’s so second nature for most of us that we don’t think much about how we’re brushing and flossing — we just do it. But when you have braces, cleaning your teeth becomes a bit more challenging.


With brackets and wires in the way, food debris and bacteria have more places to hide. So, while it’s more challenging to reach those areas with floss or a toothbrush, it’s also more important than ever. If you’re the type of person who avoids flossing or occasionally forgets to brush your teeth, take your braces treatment as the perfect opportunity to get serious about your oral health!


So what if you don’t floss with braces?


It goes without saying that it’s absolutely critical to brush and floss your teeth every day, regardless of whether or not you have braces. When you have braces, though, it’s even more important to take proper care of your teeth and gums. That’s because those hard-to-reach places in your mouth provide the perfect conditions for bacteria to grow and thrive. If you aren’t diligent about flossing and brushing your teeth with braces, it can lead to harmful side effects, such as cavities, tooth decay, gingivitis and gum disease.


Studies also show that gum disease can cause that bad bacteria in your mouth to enter your bloodstream, leading to a host of much more serious complications. Gum disease has now been linked to heart disease, stroke, pneumonia, and pregnancy complications such as premature birth. If you do not brush and floss with braces, you may also be left with unappealing white spots on your teeth when you get your braces off.


Whew. We don’t mean to scare you but we do want you to take your oral health seriously, particularly during your time with braces. Remember that we only have your best interests — and the health of your smile — at heart.


How do you floss with braces?


So now you know why you have to floss your teeth every day with braces, but how exactly do you do it? It will likely be pretty difficult to use regular dental floss with your new hardware, so we recommend using an orthodontic flosser, a floss threader or a water flosser to help you access all those nooks and crannies between and behind your brackets and wires. Here’s a look at each of these tools:


  1. Orthodontic flosser: This handy device, made up of two small plastic arms with a tight thread of floss between them, was specifically designed to make it easier to floss with braces. Just hold the handle and maneuver the floss up between your teeth into the gum line and down the sides of your teeth. Repeat for all teeth.
  2. Floss threader: A floss threader makes it easier to use regular dental floss with braces. The tool is made of thin, flexible plastic and has a large loop on one end. To use, simply thread the floss through the loop, then feed the threader through the space between your wire and teeth. Floss your teeth as usual, making sure you get all the way up into the gum line, and then repeat until you’ve flossed between every pair of teeth.
  3. Waterpik: A Waterpik is a highly effective way to clean between your teeth that doesn’t use floss at all. You know how your dentist uses a directed stream of water to clear away plaque and debris from your teeth? A Waterpik is the same idea but you can do it at home. If you’re curious about water flossers and want to learn more, ask Dr. Melanie at your next appointment!


How do you brush your teeth with braces?


When it comes to brushing your teeth with braces, the most important thing to remember is that you’ll have to amp up your brushing frequency. Before braces, twice a day was sufficient: once in the morning and once at night. With braces, you’ll have to brush after every meal, snack or beverage other than water. Once again, that’s because food particles can easily get trapped or hide behind your appliance. We want to get rid of that gunk as quickly as possible to keep your teeth healthy and strong.


Here is our step-by-step guide for how to brush your teeth with braces:


  1. Rinse your mouth with water: After you’ve flossed, rinse your mouth out really well with water. Since you’ve already loosened up the sugars, bacteria and food particles, you’ll be able to clear away a lot of debris before you even pick up your toothbrush!
  2. Brush along your gum line at a 45° angle: Start by brushing your gums first. Hold your toothbrush at a 45° angle and gently brush downwards away from the gums, being careful not to brush too hard.
  3. Brush each individual tooth and bracket: Next, brush each bracket individually to remove as much build-up as possible. The front surfaces of your teeth are hard to reach but by focusing on each separate bracket, you’ll sufficiently keep your braces and teeth clean.
  4. Rinse again with water: Once you’ve worked your way through and brushed all of your gums and every single bracket, make sure you rinse again with water. Repeat the process after every snack or meal (and ideally after every beverage that isn’t water).


Happy young person with braces and short brown hair


How to get the most out of your braces treatment


We know it seems like brushing and flossing with braces is a seriously time consuming process. But trust us: it’s absolutely worth the effort to keep your teeth healthy during treatment because that’s what will give you a strong, healthy smile for life. To help make it easier for you to maintain your oral hygiene routine while you have braces, here are a few handy tips:


  1. Build a braces to-go kit: It can be tough to remember to floss and brush after each snack or meal when you’re on the go. That’s why we recommend putting together a little to-go kit that you can toss in your purse, bag or backpack. Include a toothbrush, your fluoridated toothpaste, your dental floss or floss threader, and throw in some orthodontic wax for good measure. That way, whether you’re at work or at school, traveling or commuting, you’ll always have everything you need to keep your teeth and gums happy.
  2. Floss before brushing to maximize plaque removal: This is a common oral hygiene mistake. For some reason, most people floss after brushing when really, it’s better to floss first. That’s because flossing shakes loose the bulk of build-up between your teeth. If you floss after brushing your teeth, you’re allowing those particles to stay in your mouth or you may even end up swallowing them. If you floss first, though, you can rinse and spit them away before moving onto brushing.
  3. Book your next orthodontic appointment: Life gets busy — and so do we! Make sure you never miss an appointment with Dr. Melanie by booking your next visit before you forget. Whether you’re booking for yourself or your child, our office staff will be happy to help you find a time that works for you.


We’ve thrown a lot of information at you here, so if you still have questions about flossing or brushing with braces, don’t hesitate to reach out. And if you’re ready to book your next visit or to learn more about our cutting-edge braces treatment in San Diego and Rancho Santa Fe, contact Dr. Melanie Orthodontics today.


Dr. Melanie

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