Brushing, Flossing, and Fluoride

If you don’t clean your teeth and braces properly, plaque will build up. Plaque at first is clear but becomes gooey white stuff as it grows; you can see it on your teeth. Bacteria (germs) live in the plaque. The bacteria produce acid. The acid dissolves your teeth (tooth decay forming a cavity), causes gum disease and dissolves the glue that holds your braces on. It looks gross, it tastes gross, and it smells gross.

Gum Disease
Inflamed gums turn red and they swell up and may grow over the braces. They also hurt and bleed easily. They are hard to clean under. If the bacteria(plaque) work their way down into the tooth socket, the bone can be eaten away and the teeth will loosen and eventually fall out.

Decalcification
The acid from the bacteria will decalcify the teeth. This is the beginning of the teeth dissolving and forming a cavity. Decalcification looks chalky and white. It doesn’t come off because it is permanent damage to the teeth.

Decay
If the plaque stays on the teeth long enough, the teeth will decay. That means a cavity and a filling, maybe even a root canal or having the tooth removed.

When to Brush
Brush after every meal (three times a day) and after every snack. If you can’t brush where you are, then at least brush as soon as you have a chance and definitely as soon as you get home.

What Brush to Use
Use a soft nylon bristled toothbrush that is approved by the American Dental Association (ADA). It does not have to be an orthodontic toothbrush. It must be soft though. If your toothbrush is too hard, you can damage your teeth and your gum tissue. Replace your brush when it wears out; a brush with frayed bristles won’t do the job.

Electric toothbrushes make brushing a little more high-tech. Not everyone needs one, but if you feel that it may help keep things clean, by all means use one. The most important thing is that you get your teeth and braces clean.

Toothpaste
It doesn’t matter which brand of toothpaste you choose as long as your toothpaste has fluoride and is ADA approved. Pick the one that you think tastes the best. Don’t over do it though; you can’t see what you’re doing if there is too much foam in your mouth from too much toothpaste on your brush.

How to Brush Properly
Use a circular or vibrating motion and think about brushing one tooth at a time. Slowly work your way from the back tooth on one side, around the front teeth, and on to the back teeth on the other side. Then work your way back around on the inside. Do all of the upper or the lowers first and then repeat with the remaining teeth the same way.

When you are brushing, make sure to brush above, below, and between the braces. Pay particular attention to working your toothbrush between the braces and the gums by placing at an angle.

Don’t forget to brush your tongue? bacteria grow there too!

Look at your teeth when you are done to make sure that they are clean. Your braces should be as shiny as the day that they were placed.

Dental Floss
Floss once each day. It is the only way to clean between your teeth. Yes, we know it’s a pain with braces but we will show you how to do it and then you will need to do your part.

Fluoride
Fluoride rinse is extra protection. We’ll give you a prescription that can be filled at your drug store. The fluoride should be brushed onto the teeth or swished every night before bed. You should not eat or drink anything after you apply the fluoride.

Water-Piks
Water-Piks blast out chunks of food from hard to reach places and they massage the gums. Water-Piks do not take the place of brushing and flossing, but may be helpful in addition to brushing and flossing if you find there are places that retain small food particles even after you have brushed and flossed.