The Adult & Pediatric Orthodontics team hands out a lot of advice to patients in our Portland and Windham offices ranging from how long treatments can take to how you should care for your smile between orthodontic visits. In fact, we’re asked the latter question so much that we put together this short guide on keeping up your oral health between visits to our offices! It doesn’t take much to care for your smile between visits, but the tips below might not be common knowledge to everyone. Let’s explore how to care for your smile between orthodontic visits, especially when you might have to wait longer than usual to see us!
Maintain your dental hygiene
Keeping your teeth and gums healthy is always important, but did you know it’s a vital part of your treatment plan too? Tooth decay and gum disease may lead to complications in your orthodontic treatment, and can even affect your final results.
Whether you’re wearing traditional braces or clear aligners, there are some basics of dental hygiene that you should always follow! These guidelines will help you maintain clean teeth and a healthy mouth, and can help keep your treatment on track:
- Brush at least three times a day, ideally after each meal and once before bed.
- Use fluoridated toothpaste and a toothbrush with soft bristles.
- Brush gently at a 45-degree angle toward the gum line, moving the toothbrush in a circular pattern across the teeth to effectively remove bacteria and any trapped food particles.
- Floss at least once per day to remove bacteria and any food that has accumulated throughout the day.
- Replace your toothbrush every 3-4 months, or sooner if you have a cold or any other illness.
- Use antimicrobial and fluoridated mouthwashes to help further improve your oral health.
If you have braces, you already know that it can take some skillful maneuvering to clean around the brackets and wires. For the best results, we recommend:
- brushing around every part of your braces
- brushing every surface of every tooth
- brushing until your brackets are clean and shiny
- flossing every night before you go to bed
- using tools like floss threaders and Waterpiks to clean hard-to-reach areas
If you wear Invisalign, you should be following the same basic guidelines for dental hygiene, but you’ll need to care for your aligners too. Always rinse them off before putting them back in your mouth, and remember to clean them well with soap and water at least twice a day.
If you notice any build-up, you can soak your aligners in an oral apparatus cleaning fluid to remove it. You can clean them with toothpaste too, but this increases the risk of scratching, dulling, or otherwise deforming them; soaking them is your best bet for safely and thoroughly cleaning them. You should never clean them with or soak them in hot water, and remember to keep them away from heat sources so they retain their shape.
Follow your orthodontist’s guidance!
If you’ve been given elastics to wear with your braces or aligners, make sure to wear them exactly as directed. If you’ve recently completed treatment, continue to wear your retainer as instructed by your doctor.
Invisalign patients will normally be provided with several weeks’ worth of aligners at a time, but if you run out of aligners before your next scheduled appointment, we can arrange curbside pick-up for the next set. Dr. Joanna Yu is also available for video or telephone appointments if you have any questions or concerns. Socially distanced options like these mean that all of our patients can continue their treatments safely, conveniently, and without delay.
If we’re unable to provide you a new set of aligners right away, you can continue wearing the last set you were given. However, you should only wear them 10-12 hours each day instead of the usual 20-22 hours. This shortened wear duration will help extend the life of your aligners until an appointment is available. This way you can keep your treatment plan on track and ensure that you don’t lose any of your hard-earned progress!
Limit your sugar intake
Cavities can negatively affect your treatment, which is unfortunate since most orthodontic procedures tend to increase the risk of cavities. To combat this,avoid sugary snacks and drinks as much as possible. Food that is high in sugar and starch encourages plaque growth, which can lead to tooth decay or gum disease.
Sugar is also a carbohydrate, and carbs fuel the acidic compounds that cause cavities to form. This is bad enough on teeth without braces, but add in brackets and wires and you’ve got multiple places where bad bacteria can hide and multiply! Swap sugary drinks for water instead—it’s good for your body and can help flush food particles out of your braces and from in-between your teeth.
Make a travel kit
We recommend that all of our patients stay prepared for unexpected orthodontic emergencies by keeping a “care kit” with them at all times. Some of the items we recommend including are:
- a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste for brushing wherever you are
- floss or ortho picks to use after eating if you have the time and space to do so
- orthodontic wax, which can be used to cover any areas causing you irritation
- extra rubber bands
- lip balm for dry lips resulting from braces
- a small cup for rinsing with water, which helps dislodge any trapped food particles
- an unsharpened pencil (you can use the eraser end to push stray brace wires back into place)
Throw these items and whatever else you think would be useful into a small, portable bag and you’ll have everything you need in a pinch! This can end up saving you quite a bit of time, trouble, and discomfort if you need to perform unexpected care, you end up having to wait longer than expected for your next appointment, or if you simply want to keep your teeth and appliance clean on the go.
Your smile is a team effort at Adult & Pediatric Orthodontics
We’re rooting for you, even when you’re not in our office! Our expert team is always available to answer your questions or address any concerns you might have about your treatment plan, your smile, or anything else. Caring for your smile is a lifelong process, and it’s never a bad time to make sure that you’re doing all you can to keep your treatment on track.
For more ways to be proactive with the orthodontic process, click here or get in touch to schedule an appointment with Dr. Joanna Yu.