Caring For Braces

Brushing and Flossing

It’s more important than ever to brush and floss regularly when you have braces, so the teeth and gums are healthy during orthodontic treatment. Patients who do not keep their teeth clean may require more frequent visits to the dentist for a professional cleaning. Adults who have a history of gum disease should also see a periodontist during orthodontic treatment. Watch the two videos below on the proper care of braces during orthodontic treatment.

Plaque accumulates on everything in your mouth.  Brackets, bands and wires (‘braces’) give plaque more places to hide.  It will take you longer to thoroughly clean your teeth when ‘braces’ are glued to them.  You must invest the time!  Angle the bristles of your toothbrush (from ‘above’ and ‘below’) to completely remove the plaque from the teeth and ‘braces’.  The areas most frequently missed are 1) between the ‘braces’ and the gums and 2) under the arch wire and between the teeth.

You will be given a goodie box that contains several oral hygiene ‘aids’ and receive instructions on how to use them.  A sand timer is included to emphasize the need to spend sufficient time cleaning your teeth.  We all need to take more time cleaning our teeth.

A few considerations on Brushing Your Teeth

Focus on the flat surfaces of the teeth opposing the cheeks and tongue, especially along the gum line.

The toothbrush bristles should overlap the gum tissue, apply a light pressure and rotate the brush head in little circles, ten circles on the cheek side and ten circles on the tongue side of each tooth.

In order to emphasize the length of time you should spend brushing, we hand out 2-minute sand timers.

Many children have the will, but lack the manual dexterity to effectively complete the task.  Others of us get a tired hand and forearm before we are done.  A ‘power’ toothbrush provides the necessary movement of the bristles to proficiently remove plaque.  For patients with braces, we recommend a Sonicare®.  One still has to move the head of the toothbrush from one tooth to the next, change the angle of the bristles to get the tooth surfaces along the edges of the braces and ‘under’ the arch wire, but a Sonicare® facilitates effective cleaning.

Try to follow the same pattern of moving around the mouth so that you don’t miss an area.  By example, start on the cheek side of the last tooth on the top right. Ten circles on each tooth.  Proceed across the front teeth to the back left.  Flip the toothbrush to the tongue side and proceed around the arch, returning to the top right tongue side.  Repeat on the bottom teeth.

Ignore your teeth and they will go away.  If you want to keep them, you have to keep them clean.

Eating with Braces

What can you eat? Let’s talk about what you shouldn’t eat! For the first day or so, stick to soft foods. Avoid tough meats, hard breads, and raw vegetables. Before long, you’ll be able to eat these food items again. But you’ll need to protect your orthodontic appliances when you eat for as long as you’re wearing braces.

The brackets are bonded to the surface of the teeth.  Bands are cemented around the back teeth.  Whatever adhesive is used, it is strong enough to hold the ‘braces’ without damaging the teeth.

While the ‘braces’ are on your teeth, you need to be careful what you eat.  Hard, crunchy and sticky, gooey foods can break off the ‘braces’.  Things like popcorn, nuts, ice, and hard candy are to be avoided, as are gum, taffy and caramels.  Apples, bagels, carrots, crusts of hard rolls, etc. need to be cut into small pieces and chewed carefully between the back teeth.  Soft, mushy things like bananas, yogurt, applesauce, mashed potatoes and oatmeal are good for patients with braces.

Foods to Avoid

  • Chewy foods: bagels, hard rolls, licorice
  • Crunchy foods: popcorn, ice
  • Sticky foods: caramels, gum
  • Hard foods: nuts, candy
  • Foods you have to bite into: corn on the cob, apples, carrots

Chewing on hard things (for example, pens, pencils or fingernails) can damage the braces. Damaged braces will cause treatment to take longer.

General Soreness

When you get your braces on, you may feel general soreness in your mouth and teeth may be tender to biting pressures for 3 – 5 days. Take Tylenol or whatever you normally take for headache or discomfort. The lips, cheeks and tongue may also become irritated for one to two weeks as they toughen and become accustomed to the braces. We will supply wax to put on the braces in irritated areas to lessen discomfort.

Loosening of Teeth

This is to be expected throughout treatment. Don’t worry! It’s normal. Teeth must loosen first so they can move. The teeth will firm up in their new — corrected — positions after treatment is completed.

Loose Wire or Band

Don’t be alarmed if a wire or band comes loose. This happens occasionally. If a wire sticks out and is irritating, use a blunt instrument (eraser end of a pencil) and carefully, gently push the irritating wire back under the archwire. Simply get it out of the way. If irritation to the lips or mouth continues, place wax or wet cotton on the wire to reduce the annoyance. Call our office as soon as possible for an appointment to check and repair the problem.

Rubber Band Wear

To successfully complete orthodontic treatment, the patient must work together with the orthodontist. The teeth and jaws can only move toward their corrected positions if the patient consistently wears the rubber bands or other appliances as prescribed. Lack of cooperation following instructions and damaged appliances lengthen the treatment time… so please … follow instructions.

Elastics come in various sizes and various strength/force levels and are worn in a myriad of different configurations.  Please be sure you know where and when they are to be worn.  Do not ask your sister how she wears hers as it is probably different.  Do not borrow your cousin’s elastics as they are probably a different size.

Most often, patients are instructed to wear their elastics full-time.  Take them out when you eat.  Take them out when you brush your teeth.  Put in new, fresh elastics immediately after eating or brushing.

Light, continuous force is the best way to move teeth (quickest, most efficient).  Elastics are one way we can apply force to move teeth.  The more you wear them the sooner we are done.  Of the twenty-four hours in a day, we hope the elastics are on for twenty or more hours / day.  ‘Missing’ hours extends treatment time.

Removable Appliances

Retainers, bite plates, space maintainers – plastic things with wires – need to be brushed whenever you brush your teeth.  Take them out of your mouth, brush top, bottom, inside, outside, wires, everything.  Wear them as instructed: some are to be worn full-time, some are worn part-time.

Always bring your removable appliances to every appointment so we can check and adjust them.

When you take them out of your mouth for eating (unless otherwise instructed) and sports, put them in the retainer case!  Sports would include any activity where there is a risk of losing or breaking them, such as football, basketball, hockey, swimming, etc.

Don’t lose them or break them, they are expensive.  You have better things to do with your money than buy a replacement.  Keep them in the case you were given if they are not in your mouth.  Keep the case someplace safe.  Dogs love to chew up retainers – keep them away from ‘Spot’.  Don’t expose them to high heat – they will change shape, not fit properly and not do their job.  Avoid flipping them around in your mouth with your tongue – it is more wear and tear and may lead to it breaking.  And the noise can be annoying.  The retainers will not last forever.  The better care you give them, the longer they will last.


If you play sports, it’s important you let us know. A protective mouthguard is provided for playing contact sports.

Treatment Time

Without a doubt the most frequent question we are asked is “how much longer”.  The easiest, most accurate and most hated answer is “when it is right”.  Everyone’s teeth move at slightly different rates.  The more compliant you are with whatever we ask you to do, the sooner we are done.  We really do want to take off your braces as soon as possible.