Here at Decatur Orthodontics, we’re passionate about creating healthy smiles that look incredible and feel amazing, too. We use the latest in orthodontic technology and work to perfect our technique daily, but there’s another essential element in achieving the best results—YOU! By following our guidelines on how to care for your smile between orthodontic visits, you can help ensure that you get the straightest smile in the shortest amount of time possible.
If you’re a current orthodontic patient with Dr. Francis, you already know that issues like cavities, gum disease, and noncompliance can interrupt your progress. This can lead to longer treatment times or even affect your final results. Keeping your mouth healthy and your appliance in good shape plays an important role in how successful the overall treatment is. Let’s take a closer look below at how you can brush up on the basics of oral care outside our office!
Keep a consistent dental hygiene routine
Making sure that your teeth and gums are healthy is always important, but it’s a vital part of the success of your treatment plan, too! Tooth decay and gum disease may lead to complications in your orthodontic treatment, and can even negatively affect the 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, a healthy mouth, and fresh breath, and 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’re wearing braces, you already know that it can take some skillful maneuvering to clean around the brackets and wires. For the best results, our Decatur Orthodontics team recommends:
- 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 is your best bet for safely and thoroughly cleaning them. You should never clean your aligners 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, be sure that you wear them exactly as directed by Dr. Francis. 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 a curbside pick-up for the next set. Dr. Francis is also available for video or telephone appointments if you have any questions or concerns. Socially distanced options like these mean that you 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 exacerbate the risk of cavities. To combat this, try and avoid sugary snacks and drinks as much as you can. 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 care kit for your braces
We recommend that all of our patients with braces 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, as 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 or you end up having to wait longer than expected for your next appointment.
Your smile is a team effort at Decatur Orthodontics
We’re rooting for you, even when you’re not physically 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, get in touch with our Decatur office to schedule an appointment with Dr. Francis!