Braces are gracing the smiles of kids everywhere, especially in middle and high school. Though braces can be beneficial at any age, the most efficient time to attempt to straighten teeth is between ages 10 and 14 because the head and mouth are still growing, and many of the permanent teeth have already developed for this age group.1 Since braces serve to correct crooked or crowded teeth, overbites or underbites and incorrect jaw positions, adolescents tend to be the ones wearing braces.
However, regardless of the age you get braces, you'll need to make adjustments to your dental hygiene routine when using these orthodontic fixtures. Here are some tips for how to adjust your oral care regime with braces:
Know your options
Correcting oral anomalies with braces is important for enhancing the appearance of your smile, preventing future dental issues and reducing your risk for plaque buildup. Fortunately, with the advancement of oral technology, braces have come a long way from the more obstructive models of the past. Now, those who need braces have several options.
Traditional braces are made of metal brackets and are more comfortable and sleek than they used to be. Some kids prefer these models because they can incorporate different color rubber bands, which can be a fun way to show off their personalities. Clear braces, a variation of the traditional fixtures attached directly to your teeth, are even less noticeable because the brackets are transparent.2
Adults, on the other hand, tend to opt for invisible braces, which are clear, removable trays that are molded to the shape of your teeth. The invisible aligners typically correct smaller-scale oral issues.
Though there are several alternatives when it comes to braces, not all varieties may work for your specific oral care plan - different models are intended to fix specific dental issues. You'll likely be wearing your braces for 12 to 24 months, so talk to your dentist about your options.1
Brushing in public bathrooms
Because braces have wires and brackets with a lot of small nooks and crannies for plaque to build up and food to get stuck, you will need to brush your teeth after every meal to avoid tooth decay and enamel stains.3 However, it's not likely that you'll eat every meal at home with your own personal bathroom. Therefore, it's important to have a plan for brushing your teeth in public bathrooms.
Consider making yourself a dental kit, complete with a toothbrush, floss, toothpicks and travel-size mouthwash. This way, you can discreetly take the whole kit to the restroom after a meal and maintain your new oral hygiene routine.
Relieving pain and discomfort
Braces are meant to realign your teeth, and the constant, gradual shifting may cause mouth pain and headaches. This is especially apparent after they are tightened by a dentist or orthodontist, which typically happens at each dental appointment. You can combat discomfort with over-the-counter pain relievers. Take these medications before going to the dentist so you experience the soothing effects before the pain sets in.
With traditional braces, the wires can sometimes irritate and cut the lips. Create a barrier between your lips and the braces with dental wax, which your orthodontist or dentist will provide for you. Additionally, consider eating soft foods like soup and drinking plenty of water to reduce chewing pain.
Things to avoid
Though braces are sturdy, they aren't indestructible. It's important to avoid foods that may break the wires or increase your chances of dental decay. When you're wearing braces, don't eat chewy foods like caramel, gum and taffy.4 Additionally, avoid eating popcorn and corn on the cob, as these foods tend to get stuck in the brackets easily.
It's important to take care of your braces so they can effectively realign your smile. If braces are frequently broken or you don't follow a proper oral care routine, you may end up having to wear them even longer.
1. "Why do people get braces?" Academy of General Dentistry, Jan., 2012. http://www.knowyourteeth.com/infobites/abc/article/?abc=O&iid=322&aid=1304
2. "Orthodontics treatment options," Dental Associates. http://www.dentalassociates.com/braces-orthodontics/orthodontics-treatment-options/
3. "Caring for teeth with braces," Delta Dental, Jan., 2014. https://www.deltadentalins.com/oral_health/bracescare.html
4. "What can I eat?" Procter & Gamble. http://www.oralb.com/embraceit/what-you-can-eat-with-braces