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Woman with glasses smiling with braces

Good oral hygiene is one of the most important goals that we should all have to maintain the health and strength of our teeth and gums. Once we get braces, however, our oral hygiene regimen will change to account for the new appliance in our mouths that we will have to clean around. Whether you have traditional braces or lingual braces, cleaning around the brackets and wires is essential in preventing cavities and tooth decay. There are many options to choose from to clean between teeth, such as a proxabrush, and other tools to thoroughly brush around the brackets, such as an electric toothbrush. Find out what all you can do to keep your smile healthy and bright with braces with these tips!

 

Extra Care For Teeth During Orthodontic Treatment

Orthodontic care is one of the most helpful and important dental treatments that patients have readily available to them. While there are many versions of braces that help straighten our teeth and fix misaligned bites, there are certain precautions that we need to take to ensure proper care for our orthodontic appliances and teeth. Brackets and wires in the mouth make it easier for food particles to get stuck in, which can lead to dental problems, like cavities. Proper oral hygiene is essential during your time with braces to avoid any preventable issues that can lengthen your treatment time or need special care to be fixed.

 

Since braces naturally create nooks and crannies where bacteria can hide, it is important to maintain a good oral hygiene regimen everyday so that you can avoid tooth decay and gum problems during orthodontic treatment. If teeth and brackets are not kept clean, permanent damage can occur to the tooth enamel, as well. When this occurs, white spots (tooth decay) can begin appearing on the teeth where the enamel surface has lost minerals, which cannot be reversed. Bleeding or inflamed gums, called gingivitis, is also common whenever patients don’t clean their teeth thoroughly enough with braces, and it can be very painful. While it is not likely that all of these issues will occur if you miss brushing your teeth or flossing well a few times, you will be more prone to an increased risk, which will hurt your oral health and complicate the rest of your orthodontic care.

 

Teeth Cleaning OptionsFemale mouth smiling with braces as she cleans in between teeth with interdental brush

Although cleaning your teeth with braces isn’t too difficult of a process for most patients, there are some tools that you can use to better clean around the hard-to-reach areas in your mouth and make your time cleaning more efficient. First and foremost, make sure that you (or your child) are brushing after each meal. It may seem insignificant, but brushing after you eat removes food particles that are stuck in braces, reduces staining and prevents bacteria buildup. Secondly, use a threadable floss or floss threader to clean underneath the wire of your braces. A floss threader works by inserting the pointed end between the teeth and under the archwire. From there, move it back and forth until it is able to thread the floss between the teeth. Then, you can floss the two teeth, on either side, to remove all food that may be stuck there. If you’re having trouble with your floss getting stuck, consider using waxed floss, which slides between the teeth easier and doesn’t get snagged.

 

After brushing and flossing, using a proxabrush is helpful in cleaning between each bracket. Commonly referred to as an interproximal brush or  “Christmas tree brush,” a proxabrush is placed between two brackets, below the archwire, and uses an up-and-down motion to remove any lodged food particles that brushing and flossing can’t get to. Clean the brackets with the proxabrush on both sides, starting either up from the bottom or down from the top, and repeat between each tooth. Another option for hard-to-reach areas is an oral irrigator, which uses a pulsating stream of water to remove plaque and food debris. Mouthwash is also a helpful tool to kill and bacteria that may have been left after brushing and flossing. For an extra clean, try using an electric toothbrush to maximize cleaning and brush those difficult areas of the mouth that are hard to reach.

 

Braces-Friendly Diet

The foods we eat and the diet we have affect our oral health and can interfere with orthodontic appliances. Eating sugary or starchy foods can let plaque develop around the brackets, which can lead to cavities, staining or even gum disease. Sticky or chewy foods, such as caramel, taffy, chewing gum and corn on the cob, should also be avoided as they can easily become stuck between brackets and be difficult to remove. Hard foods, such as candy, beef jerky, nuts and popcorn, are also no-nos as they are known to break wires and loosen brackets. If you’re going to eat hard or crunchy foods, such as apples or carrots, make sure to cut them into small, bite-sized pieces to avoid any possible damage.

 

Regular Orthodontic Checkups

Even if you or your child are following these rules, it is essential that you visit with your orthodontist regularly so that they can monitor teeth movement and adjust any wires or brackets. Your orthodontist or hygienist can show you how to use the tools previously described and give you additional teeth cleaning supplies to aid you during treatment. For more questions about how to clean your teeth with braces or what foods to stay away from, contact Belmar Orthodontics at (303) 225-9016!

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Female patient with braces that is drinking a drink through a straw and experiencing tooth pain.

Did you know that what you’re drinking might be hurting your oral health? Many patients experience problems like tooth erosion and thinning without realizing that the problem is what they’re eating. Use this guide to know the effects of foods and drinks on the teeth and what to watch out for!

 

Wear and Tear on Your Teeth

Your teeth are made of tightly-packed minerals that keep them strong and healthy. Those include calcium, phosphate, magnesium and more. Your saliva helps break down your food and helps to remineralize your teeth each day. Eating certain foods and drinks can strip minerals from your teeth slowly over time, making them weak, sensitive and thinner. These are common oral health problems with age. However, thinning (or enamel erosion) and sensitivity usually come from a lack of oral hygiene. If you enjoy a daily soda or you love your sweet treats throughout the day, you may be weakening your teeth at a rapid pace.

 

A dark soda in a glass that is surrounded by sugary treats.

Foods that Cause Damage

Some foods build up your tooth enamel and help it, like dairy products helping to remineralize calcium. Others—like sugar—tear it down. Avoid these foods to keep your smile healthy:

  • Anything Citrus: This includes both foods and drinks. Citrus fruits (lemon, lime, orange, etc.) and drinks contain citric acid. This is there naturally or as an additive to maintain flavor. Any type of acid on a label will erode your teeth if you ingest it.
  • Sugar: Sugar mixes directly with mouth bacteria to form a sticky film called plaque. That plaque sticks to teeth and causes decay. Because it’s acidic, it will work on your teeth to erode and decay them. The more sugar you eat, the more plaque your mouth makes, and the more erosion and decay you get. This is especially true while wearing braces.
  • Hard Candies/Mints: Any candy or mint you suck on (like a sucker) exposes your teeth to sugar constantly, which leads to decay from plaque acid.
  • Chewy/Sticky Candy: Any chewy/sticky consistency is destined to get stuck in brackets and wires. It also sticks like glue to the teeth if they’re not brushed properly.
  • Starchy Foods: Breads, cookies, crackers, pasta and anything starchy will get stuck in your teeth. All of these quickly break down into sugar, which can affect your teeth and your overall health.
  • Popcorn: Popcorn and hard foods like nuts, hard veggies and fruits and non-food items can be bad for your teeth with braces, as they can break your orthodontic appliance. Limit them to avoid orthodontic emergencies.

 

A soda, sparkling water and juice in three separate glass cups all lined up in a row on a white background.

Drinks to Avoid

Drinks can be even more damaging than food in many cases. That’s because you can drink all day long, and if your drink is acidic, those acids stay on your teeth up to 30 minutes. Soft drinks (soda/sports drinks) are notorious for high sugar content. That sugar can create tons of plaque in your mouth that causes decay. As we mentioned, that combination is acidic. Every time you drink, your are making plaque that can weaken your teeth.

 

Avoid these drinks that are acidic, sugary or can stain:

  • Soda: This contains carbonic acid, which comes from a chemical reaction between carbon dioxide and water. It stays acidic on your teeth for up to 30 minutes. Most sodas are incredibly high in sugar, which means they are doubly bad for you.
  • Energy drinks, etc.: Energy drinks, sparkling water, and any drink of the sort that contains carbonic acid. Avoid drinks with fizzy bubbles or limit their contact with the teeth by drinking through a straw.
  • Sports Drinks: These drinks are often full of sugar, plus citric acid to maintain flavor. Avoid them and stick to water.
  • Water Enhancers: Water-flavoring liquids or powders generally contain citric acid to maintain flavor. Even if the substance is clear, the acid will still erode teeth even if the drink isn’t staining them.
  • Alcohol: Many contain carbonation (carbonic acid) and all will kill nerves in your mouth, leading to loss of feeling over time.
  • Coffee: This drink, tea, wine and anything with blue, purple or red pigments will stain the teeth. If you teeth are eroding over time, the dyes get into small cracks in the teeth, changing tooth color rapidly.

 

Damaging Habits that Harm Your Teeth

If you want to have your teeth for life, you have to take care of them. You have to try even harder to care for them when you have braces. More than 4 million Americans are wearing braces each year. Some opt for Invisalign aligners, which are removable and which make cleaning the teeth fairly easy. However, many patients—especially children and teens—wear lingual, traditional metal or ceramic braces. All of these types of braces have brackets bonded to the tooth surface and wires that hold them in place.

 

If you don’t brush and floss like normal, your teeth can decay, erode and you can have problems with both gingivitis or severe gum disease. Your teeth can weaken and break easy and they can fall out. That’s why you want to have meticulous oral hygiene all throughout life. Proper brushing, flossing, visiting the dentist or orthodontist, and using oral health products like mouthwash and fluoride can all help you keep your natural teeth healthy.

 

With braces, you can have your teeth become thin and weak based on what you eat, or they can decay and change colors based on how you care for them. You can definitely harm your teeth if you’re not cleaning your brackets, wires and teeth several times a day. Good oral hygiene care is vital to having a healthy and beautiful smile at the end of your treatment. An easy step to avoid problems is to avoid the foods and drinks we listed above. Be even more careful about those foods and drinks with braces. For specific questions about certain foods or drinks, or help for proper braces care, call Belmar Orthodontics today at (303) 225-9016!

 

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person holding up a picture of a perfect smile

Many people take vitamins, exercise and eat right to maintain a healthy body. However, what about your teeth? They need tender loving care to stay healthy and strong as well. Most people either don’t realize how much care they need to give their teeth, or they forget because of busy schedules. However, building strong teeth for life only takes a few minutes of your day to achieve. Your teeth need daily brushing, flossing and other care to keep them free of damaging substances. You also need dental appointments, oral cancer screenings, a healthy diet and more to avoid tooth loss and oral health problems. Follow these simple guidelines to keep your smile healthy for life!

How Strong Are Teeth?

Many people simply assume that the teeth are bones, but they actually are not. Your bones and your teeth are some of the hardest tissues in your body and are made of calcium and phosphate. However, your teeth are actually harder. Bones have spongy insides, but teeth are 96% hard mineral. That’s why you can exert up to 200 pounds of pressure when you chew according to the ADA. However, no matter how strong teeth are, they can’t repair themselves when they become damaged.

 

What Weakens Teeth

Your teeth are some of the strongest parts of your body, but even the strongest materials can become weak over time. Generally, poor oral hygiene habits are what weaken your teeth the most. Genetics can give some patients weak enamel, but 99% of the time the problem is your hygiene. Tooth decay is so common among American children and adults, that the National Institutes of Health consider it to be the most “prevalent chronic disease” around. You get this disease by simply not brushing and flossing enough. Sugar plus saliva makes plaque, and that plaque sticks to your teeth and decays them. People who don’t brush or floss their teeth can expect to have problems with tooth decay, bad breath, gum disease, tooth loss and more. Bottom line: brush your teeth and do it every day!

Woman showing off her beautiful smile

Building Strong Teeth Through Nutrition

Too often, the American diet consists of quick foods that generally are low in nutrition and high in sugar. If you look at the labels of most of these foods, you will find that ½ or more of many pre-packaged snacks are pure sugar. Even “healthy” or diet foods can be terrible for both your body and your teeth because of that sugar factor. Foods that have an unexpectedly high amount of sugar include:

  • Yogurt
  • Breads (rolls, pastries, doughnuts, sandwich bread, etc.)
  • Cereal (including oatmeal)
  • Drinks
  • Protein bars
  • Pancakes and similar breakfast items
  • Many dressings and sauces
  • Fruit snacks or dried fruit

A person can drink 3 candy bars’ worth of sugar in a single soda without realizing it. That’s why it’s always important to check labels and choose foods free of sugar or very low in sugar. Not only with that sugar rot your teeth, but it will cause you health problems.

 

Instead of sugary foods, choose nutritious foods such as:

  • Low or zero sugar yogurt. These are high in calcium.
  • Dairy products such as cheese and milk. Dairy contains high amounts of calcium, proteins and other minerals for building strong teeth.
  • Water. Sports drinks, sodas and juices are full of sugar.
  • Crunchy, high-fiber foods. Celery, carrots, and apples are some of these foods that can help scrape particles off your teeth as you eat them.
  • Leafy greens. These are full of so many vitamins that they can significantly help your oral health and overall wellness.

Also avoid tobacco use, as tobacco quickly damages teeth and causes oral cancer.

 

Photo of a tooth model and dental tools with a dentist in the background

Essential Oral Hygiene Habits

You need to eat well to have strong teeth, but you also need to be cleaning your teeth meticulously. Every person must brush and floss their teeth or they will get tooth decay. It’s inevitable without those basic oral hygiene habits. The American Dental Association recommends brushing the teeth at least twice a day to keep them free of plaque. If you brush your teeth after every meal and teach children to do the same, the risk of tooth decay goes down even more. Adding fluoride to your hygiene routine makes teeth stronger, as this mineral provides a shield for your tooth enamel against sugars, acids and other harmful substances. When choosing toothpastes, mouthwashes and more, look for products with fluoride in them.

Flossing is often overlooked by many people, but it too is essential to keeping your teeth strong, especially with braces. Food and drink pass through your teeth everyday. When you chew, food is lodged in cracks with every bite. You can clean your teeth front and back, but don’t forget about the spaces in between. Flossing dislodges food that would otherwise decay and weaken tooth enamel. If patients floss all the way up in their gum line on both sides of each individual tooth, they remove hidden plaque that causes gum problems. Using floss to scrape down the teeth as you go is a great way to remove anything that coats the tooth surface. If you don’t do anything else, make sure you and your children at least follow these basic oral hygiene habits. To learn about more oral hygiene habits you need (like visiting the dentist), call Belmar Orthodontics today at (303) 225-9016!