Whether your braces are on for six months or two years, it’s imperative to develop proper brushing habits right away. Braces provide far more nooks and crannies in your mouth for food and plaque to hide in, making proper brushing technique, frequency and toothpaste critical. If you have braces, it’s important to make sure you’re both preventing tooth decay and avoiding decalcification marks. Decalcification is weakened enamel that appears as white marks on the teeth.
We spoke to Dr. Thomas Redd, DDS, for recommendations on how to best brush your teeth with braces.
What Toothpaste Should I Use with Braces?
“I recommend a fluoridated toothpaste. If someone is at high risk for cavities, we may prescribe a fluoride gel (such as Prevident or a fluoride rinse) for use after brushing. If we fear someone may get decalcification, we may prescribe or dispense a paste that is high in Calcium, Phosphate and Fluoride. There are a few different products on the market such as MI paste or Re-Min paste. MI paste is milk-based and so it isn’t the best for patients with dairy sensitivities or allergies.”
It’s always best to consult with your dentist or orthodontist on what is best for your mouth.
Manual Toothbrush or Electric Toothbrush with Braces?
Dr. Redd’s advice for most is to “use the brush that works best for you.” With that said, some electric toothbrushes have an advantage over manual toothbrushes, including a timer and special brush attachments made for braces. The best toothbrush is the one you use regularly and consistently.
How Do You Brush Your Teeth with Braces?
Angle your toothbrush at 45-degrees. Point it between the gum line and the bracket. Dr. Redd says, “this is where the problems usually start.”
Follow this by angling the toothbrush up to reach the underside of the braces. Go slowly, making sure to brush each tooth at the gum line, above each bracket, and below.
Next, use your small proxy brush to reach areas your toothbrush may have missed. A little proxy brush is great for cleaning areas between your teeth and wires.
Don’t forget to floss! It’s easier to floss with braces when you have a floss threader. This device helps get the floss into the proper position between your teeth and in your braces. It also reaches under the gums. “There are other special devices to help with flossing,” says Dr. Redd. “But anything that makes flossing easier is more likely to get someone to floss.”
Check out this video for a demonstration on how to brush with braces.
Brushing after every meal is ideal, but it might not always be possible. If you can’t reach for a toothbrush and some paste, swish some water around your mouth to remove any food particles.
Final Tips on Braces from Dr. Thomas Redd
“Because there are more nooks and crannies for plaque to hide in and hold on, chances for decalcification and decay increase substantially.” A common misconception that Dr. Redd notes is that decalcification is caused by brackets against the teeth. It’s actually a misconception that the braces cause them.
“No, the marks, or cavities, aren’t usually under the brackets. They are next to them. Most commonly, decalcification occurs between the bracket and the gum line. That area is the hardest for patients to keep clean.
If you don’t keep your teeth clean, you’ll see damage under the braces from lack of care. Because patients with braces see the orthodontist every month, another misconception is that they don’t need to visit their general dentist during that time. However, since it can be harder to keep your teeth clean when you have braces, they may actually need to see the dentist more frequently until the braces come off.
Patients can coordinate their cleaning with their orthodontist. That way, the orthodontist can remove arch wires before they go in for their cleaning. This will make it easier for the dentist or hygienist to perform the cleaning.”
Learn more about caring for your braces: