Skip to content

Is It Harder to Maintain Oral Hygiene with Braces?

Braces can present some challenges in cleaning, but with the right tools and techniques, you can maintain excellent oral hygiene. Brushing and flossing, as usual, remain important. Learn more about life during orthodontic treatment

Always consult directly with an orthodontist to get personalized answers and recommendations. Each individual’s orthodontic journey is unique, and professional advice is invaluable in making informed decisions.

What is gum disease?

Gum disease is a bacterial growth in your mouth. Almost 50% of American adults have mild, moderate or severe gum disease. People may be unaware that they have gum disease because it does not hurt. The mildest form of gum disease is gingivitis. Untreated gum disease, or gingivitis, can get worse and become periodontitis as plaque spreads below the gums line. As the disease progresses, it progresses to advanced periodontitis. As unnerving as gum disease can be, it can be avoided. Teeth that are properly aligned are less prone to gum disease.

Are there other tools we can use to help with oral hygiene?

Here are three handy oral hygiene tools:

  • Interproximal brushes – these are great at dislodging plaque and food particles trapped between teeth, and to clear out debris that catches on brackets and wires.
  • Water irrigators – these can flush out food particles in a jif!
  • Fluoride mouth rinse – whether over-the-counter or prescription strength, a daily fluoride rinse can strengthen tooth enamel and help prevent white marks (decalcification).

Your orthodontist may suggest dipping an interproximal brush in a capful of fluoride rinse to deliver fluoride protection between the teeth, or using a fluoride rinse instead of water in an irrigator.

Manual toothbrush or a power toothbrush?

Use the toothbrush that works best for you. Make sure you brush for two minutes each time you brush! Change the toothbrush or power toothbrush head at the first sign of wear, or at least every three months.

Why is all this brushing and flossing necessary?

Brushing and flossing keep teeth and gums clean by removing plaque and food debris. When plaque and trapped food are left on the teeth and around braces, the outcome can be cavities, swollen gums, bad breath and permanent white marks on the teeth. Maintaining good oral hygiene helps to minimize your time in treatment, and contributes to a healthy result.

Do I have to floss?

Flossing is crucial to successful orthodontic treatment, and to on-going oral health. Flossing removes plaque from parts of your teeth that brushing alone can’t reach. Plaque is the enemy – it’s the source of disease processes in teeth and gums.

How often should you floss?

A minimum of once a day.

What kind of toothpaste should you use?

Fluoride toothpaste is recommended, approved by the American Dental Association, preferably without any whitening.

How often should you brush?

Your orthodontist will give specific instructions, but in general, you should brush for two minutes after every meal or snack, and before bed. Carry a travel toothbrush and small tube of toothpaste with you so you can brush when you’re away from home. Bring along floss and an interproximal brush, too. If you’re in a pinch and absolutely are not in a position to brush after eating or drinking  at the very least rinse with plain water. It can help you get rid of some food particles or traces of beverages.

How do I make an appointment with an orthodontist?

Making an appointment with an orthodontist is easy. And many AAO orthodontists offer free or low-cost initial consultations. Visit Find an Orthodontist to locate AAO orthodontists near you. When results of your search appear, they include:

  • Orthodontist’s name
  • Distance from the search parameter you entered to the orthodontists’ office
  • Street address
  • Office phone
  • Orthodontist’s website

Results Page Options Multiple orthodontists are returned based on the search parameter you enter. From the results page, you can:

  • Click on an orthodontist’s name in the result page to go to the doctor’s page (see Orthodontist’s Page Options below)
  • See the distance to the orthodontist’s office
  • See the office address and phone number
  • See the practice website address, and click the link to go to the website
  • Click the “Request an Appointment” button to send an email to the orthodontist and request an appointment

If you are accessing Find an Orthodontist from a smartphone, you can click the telephone icon and place a call to the orthodontist’s office to make your appointment. Orthodontist’s Page Options Click on an orthodontist’s name in the results pages to go to the orthodontist’s page and see:

  • The degree(s) the doctor earned in dental school and the orthodontic residency program
  • A link to the practice website
  • The main office address and satellite office addresses, if any
  • The main office phone number and satellite office phone numbers, if any
  • The name of the orthodontic program from which the orthodontist graduated
  • Whether the orthodontist is a Diplomate of the American Board of Orthodontics or a Fellow of the Royal College of Dentists of Canada.

Click the “Request an Appointment” button to send an email to the orthodontist and request an appointment. If you are accessing Find an Orthodontist from a smartphone, you can click the telephone icon and place a call to the orthodontist’s office to make your appointment