Caring for teeth with dental braces and retainers can be challenging for some, but with good oral hygiene practices and dedication to following orthodontic instructions, most people can successfully care for themselves autonomously or with the help of a parent for some children. Emergency orthodontic situations, however, may not always be avoidable. In general, it is important to know the best practices related to caring for the mouth during orthodontic treatment as well as the correct steps to take when encountering any type of orthodontic problem. The following information is provided to specifically guide patients on what to do in a number of different specific orthodontic situations relevant to having dental braces.
General Hygiene and Care with Dental Braces
It is recommended to brush the teeth carefully after every meal or snack with fluoride toothpaste. It is also important to prudently remove and food that may have gotten trapped in the braces. Sometimes, a prescribed fluoride mouthwash may be suggested to help clean the mouth in places difficult for a toothbrush to reach. Waterpiks and airflossers can also be useful in keeping the mouth as clean as possible amidst orthodontic treatment.
General Soreness from Dental Braces
It is normal for a person’s mouth to feel sore for a couple days following the application of or adjustment of dental braces. General discomfort is normal and is not considered an orthodontic emergency. It may be helpful to eat soft foods for a couple days until the soreness subsides, and over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen can relieve the discomfort as well.
Mouth Sores from Dental Braces
Conventional dental braces may cause some small sores in the cheeks, lips, and tongue. This is common and typically a bit uncomfortable, but using a topical anesthetic like Orabase or Ora-Gel will relieve the discomfort as well as aid in healing the sores. Apply one of these topical relievers with a cotton swap to keep the area as clean as possible. The initial soreness from your dental braces will not last long, but you may want to try some easy remedies to help you get past the discomfort. Some tips to alleviate symptoms include:
- Rinse your mouth with a warm saltwater solution (1 teaspoon of salt and 8 ounces of water). Rinse vigorously for one minute, then spit out.
- Cover any bothersome bracket or wire with dental wax. A small piece of wax should be rolled into a ball and placed over the part of the appliance that is causing discomfort. Our office will provide you with dental wax.
- Use over-the-counter pain reliever, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, to reduce pain, especially if you are uncomfortable at bedtime.
- Eat softer foods, such as pastas, yogurt, mashed potatoes, and soups for a few days.
- Mouth Sores and Irritation of Lips and Cheeks from Dental Braces
- During the adjustment period, the inside of your cheeks and lips may feel irritated. You may bite the inside of your cheek or a bracket could cause a small sore to develop. If you experience sores in your mouth, you should:
- Continue to use a warm, saltwater rinse several times a day.
- Avoid touching the area with your tongue or fingers. This causes the sore to become more irritated.
- Avoid highly acidic foods or drinks, such as citrus juices and spicy foods.
- Use an over-the-counter oral anesthetic to ease discomfort. Anbesol or Orajel applied with a cotton swab will temporarily numb the affected area.
- Use dental wax to protect any sore spots in your mouth.
Your mouth will quickly get used to your new appliance, and you should not need to use these measures for more than a few weeks. Be sure to call our office if your pain is severe or you feel that your mouth is not adjusting, as it should.
Irritation of Lips and Cheeks from Dental Braces
Dental braces are simply foreign to the mouth. They may for a time cause a general irritation of the lips and cheeks, but in time, the mouth does typically adjust and become less sensitive. The orthodontist will provide dental wax to place over any area of the braces that is causing irritation. Often, even a piece of wet cotton or a small piece of orange peel wrapped around the ‘poking’ or irritating spot can relieve the aggravation. If the irritation does not stop, the orthodontist may need to check the braces and possibly adjust them. Also, swallowing wax by accident, such as during sleep, is not a problem or harmful to the digestive tract.
Loose Dental Bracket or Band
Orthodontic brackets and bands hold the arch wire of the braces in the correct place. The brackets are stable and tough, because they are bonded to the teeth with special adhesive. If the braces are not taken care of correctly however, or the child gets hit in the mouth, brackets and bands may become lose. If a bracket or band becomes loose, immediately contact the orthodontist for an appointment to fix the problem. To temporarily relieve any discomfort this may cause, the parent can take a pair of sterile tweezers and slide the bracket across the wire until it is between two teeth. Rotate the bracket until it is in the right position again, and then slide it back to the center of the tooth it belongs on. This, again, is a temporary fix, and the orthodontist should be seen as soon as possible.
Loose Dental Arch Wire or Ligature
If the dental arch wire or ligature, which are fixed to all of the brackets, becomes loose, the orthodontist should be contacted immediately for an appointment to fix the wire or band. For temporary relief of any discomfort, the wire or band can be pushed back down with a pencil eraser or Q-tip. Push down carefully until the wire is back flat against the tooth, and if this is not possible apply wax to create a buffer between the braces and irritated spot of the mouth. Only as a very last resort in an intensely uncomfortable situation, should the wire be clipped with a pair of sharp clippers. Be careful not to swallow any clipped wire.
Preventing Orthodontic Problems
To prevent orthodontic problems as effectively as possible it is important to follow some very important specific instructions regarding caring for the braces, what a child can and cannot eat while wearing braces, proper brushing and flossing, as well as taking correct precautions while playing sports with braces.
Food Caught Behind Dental Braces and Between Teeth
Remove food that becomes caught behind dental braces and between teeth simply with dental floss. Creating a small knot in the middle of the floss can aid in removing the caught food. If floss is not on hand, a toothpick may also do the trick, but either way, always be gentle when trying to remove food from the braces or between teeth.
Foods to Avoid While Wearing Dental Braces
When wearing braces kids can eat most food, even if some must be cut up into smaller pieces for easier chewing. Certain foods, however, can damage or even break the braces and should be completely avoided. There are some foods that simply do not pair well with wearing dental braces. While it may take some changes in your normal eating habits, keeping your braces from being damaged will be well worth it. Foods that should be avoided include:
- Chewy foods, such as pizza crusts, hard rolls, bagels, and beef jerky.
- Very hard foods that are difficult to bite like apples, carrots or bagels
- Sticky foods, such as caramels, licorice, fruit bursts, and taffy.
- Crunchy foods, such as popcorn, pretzels, corn chips, and hard taco shells.
- Tough-to-bite foods, such as apples or corn-on-the-cob.
- Raw carrots, hard candy, nuts, and gum.
Do not chew on anything hard such as pencils, pens, or ice. A good rule of thumb is to avoid anything especially sticky, chewy, tough, or crunchy. Keep in mind that there are still plenty of foods that you can eat. Knowing that a straight, beautiful smile is on the way will make it easier to adjust to new eating habits.
Flossing & Brushing Tips with Braces
Good oral hygiene is especially important while you are wearing braces. You should brush your teeth after every meal and before bedtime, so carry an extra toothbrush to school or work, if possible. This will help avoid food and plaque from getting trapped in the spaces between wires and brackets. Adding a few easy steps to your oral hygiene routine will be especially beneficial:
- Remove elastic bands before brushing your teeth.
- Using a soft-bristled brush, gently brush your braces, being sure to get into all the nooks and gaps.
- After brushing, thoroughly inspect your braces to make sure nothing remains between your braces or teeth.
- Use an interproximal brush to remove any remaining food particles. It is designed specifically for cleaning in between braces. Brush down from the top and up from the bottom.
- If you are unable to brush your teeth after a meal, rinse your mouth vigorously with water.
For brushing teeth with braces, use a regular soft toothbrush. From the top, brush down, and from the bottom, brush up on each individual tooth with braces. Then brush the teeth with a proxabrush, also known as a ‘Christmas tree’ brush, which is specifically made to brush in between braces. Also, use fluoridated toothpaste.
It is still possible to floss your teeth while you are wearing dental braces. A floss threader will make it easier to work around your braces. Simply pull the floss from the dispenser, through the threader, and slide the floss in an up and down motion along the front of each tooth. Floss between the archwire and braces first, then between your teeth. Do not use too much force around the archwire, as not to damage it. Floss the teeth carefully in a sawing motion, and make sure not to pull too forcefully around the arch wire.
If you do not have a threader, you can feed the floss between the archwire and the upper part of the tooth (closest to the gums). Work the floss between the teeth with a gentle back and forth motion.
By using a little extra care and patience, you can maintain your oral hygiene routine and keep your teeth at their healthy best.
Wearing Dental Braces During Sports
Children can keep playing any sports with braces, but there is a higher risk of getting hurt if hit in the mouth. When playing sports, children with braces should wear a special mouth guard made of tough plastic and designed to fit specifically and comfortably over the braces. These special mouth guards also help shield the soft tissues of the mouth. Using a mouth guard will protect your braces (and your teeth) from being damaged, should you be hit in the mouth. We will be happy to fit you with a mouth guard designed to fit comfortably over your braces and reduce the risk of injury.
Caring for a Palatal Expander
Your palatal expander needs to be cared for properly so that it can work effectively. Once placed in your mouth, it is non-removable. You will be adjusting your expander at home at scheduled intervals. For each adjustment, you or your parent will insert the key provided by our office into the hole in the center of your expander and turn the expansion screw. Be sure the key is as far back as it will go. We will give you a schedule detailing the number of turns and how often you should make the turns. It is important for you to follow the schedule for the expander to work properly and to avoid unnecessary discomfort.
Your palatal expander should be kept clean in order to avoid any infection or bacteria to build up. Gently brush around the expander after all meals and snacks. After brushing, gargle with plain water.
On rare occasions, an expander can become partially detached. If you experience any problems with your palatal expander remaining in place:
- Stop turning the appliance.
- Try to keep the expander in place as much as possible.
- Contact our office so that we can schedule an appointment to repair the expander.
This appliance is typically pretty simple to care for, since it is cemented in place in the roof of the mouth. To care for a palatal expander, brush the palate well when brushing the teeth and all around the expander. Make sure after brushing, no food is left or caught around the expander. Also, to keep from causing the expander to come loose, adhere to the same list of food to avoid as when wearing braces.
Caring for Retainers
Your retainer plays an important role in keeping your teeth straight, and so does caring for it. Whenever you brush your teeth, you should brush your retainer. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and warm water (not toothpaste). At least once a week, you should soak your retainer in a denture cleanser mixed with a cup of warm water. Do not use hot water. This soaking will keep your retainer disinfected. Rinse your retainer with plain water prior to putting it in your mouth.
Orthodontic (Braces) Emergency Care
Serious orthodontic emergencies are fairly uncommon. When feeling any severe type of orthodontic pain or having any pain related to an orthodontic appliance, contact your orthodontist and explain the issue. An appointment will be made to take care of the problem. General soreness or pain is not considered an orthodontic emergency and can typically be remedied at home. For any type of orthodontic trauma, of course emergency steps may need to be taken.
If you have a true orthodontic emergency, please know that we are available to you. While many problems with braces or other orthodontic appliances can be remedied short-term at home, if you are experiencing severe pain or are unable to take care of an appliance problem, please contact our office. Your dental health is of the utmost importance to us.
If a patient experiences any type of trauma injury to the face and/or mouth or believes they are experiencing a problem for which emergency care is required, call your orthodontist’s 24-hour on-call urgent care services line. After hours, their emergency care answering service will contact their on-call staff, and the patient will be taken care of as soon as possible.
If you are ready to choose a team of pediatric dental specialists that offer state-of-the-art treatment and highly personalized care, contact Frisco Kid’s Dentistry by Online Appointment Request or call 214 618 5200.