Brushing & Flossing with Braces

You know how important it is to brush and floss properly when you’re wearing braces — but what’s the best way to do that? Let’s start with the basic brushing tools: Either a soft-bristled brush or a bi-level brush (one that has shorter bristles in the middle and longer bristles at the edges) can be effective. Used carefully, an electric toothbrush can work just as well. But be sure the electric brush is set to a moderate power level, and don’t let its vibrations cause the back of the brush to hit the braces!

You should brush with a fluoride toothpaste at least two times per day (preferably after meals), for at least two minutes each time. Remember to brush all of the tooth surfaces: the front, the back, and the chewing surfaces as well. Be especially careful to clean the areas between wires and teeth, and between brackets and gums — that’s where food particles can easily become trapped.

Here’s a suggested brushing technique: Beginning at the front surfaces, place the tips of the bristles flat against your teeth, and use small circular motions to gently polish them clean. For areas between braces and gums, tilt the brush toward the gum line (down for the bottom teeth, up for the top) while keeping up the circular motions. Next, move on to the chewing surfaces of upper and lower teeth, using a firm back-and-forth motion. Finally, finish up by carefully brushing the back surfaces of the teeth the same way you did the front surfaces.

Special Brushing Tools

If you’re having trouble cleaning the areas near brackets and wires, there are some special tools that may help. One is the interdental toothbrush. It has a small tuft of bristles that stick up all around, like a pipe cleaner. Use it gently and carefully to clean the tiny spaces under wires and around bands and brackets.

Another special cleaning tool is the oral irrigator or “water pick.” This device shoots a small stream of pressurized water at your teeth, which can help dislodge bits of food that become trapped in nooks and crannies. While it’s easy to use, an oral irrigator isn’t a substitute for a toothbrush or dental floss — but when used along with proper brushing and flossing techniques, it can be very effective.

Video Transcript

I would like to review, placing the wax one more time, take your wax, make a little ball, and then you can just take it and push it right onto the brace and mold it around the brace. And as you can see, it covers the area that might be rough or scratchy. You will need to take the wax off when you brush to do that. Just peel it right off the brace and throw it away and get a new piece out as needed. If you happen to swallow a piece of wax, it’s okay. It will not hurt you. You may never use wax and that’s fine. And you may use a lot of wax and if you need it, when you come for your appointments, feel free to ask for wax. We’ll be happy to give you some.

The next thing I do want to do is cover the tooth brushing up close. The first step is the horizontal step. We’re going to brush back and forth right on the chewing surface. This gets the chewing surface of the tooth. Then we’re going to get on the inside and get that area covered, then we’re going to come above the brace. The bristles go right on top of the brace. And you’re going to want to go back and forth right along the gum line. This does not have to be a hard scrub, but you do need to get along the gum line and the top of the tooth, that is your first step.That is the horizontal step.

The last step is the squiggles or the circular step. You’re going to put the bristles onto the brace and circle around each one. Brushing one tooth at a time, top to bottom and work your way around from one side to the other, circling around and finally, you’re going to finish with your squiggle step. You’re going to put the bristles. The chewing surface and wiggle the bristles under the wire toward the gum line. Once again, one tooth at a timeworking your way all around until you get to the other side. You’re going to do this top and bottom for three minutes, total. This is a little interdental brush. This goes under the wire. To get things clean. It looks like a little pipe cleaner and you just spend the end up and then the brush, you take it.And it goes right up under the wire and you brush back and forth and just kind of wiggle around in there, pull it out and go to the next tooth. This really helps to get clean under that wire and get things clean.

I’d like to teach you how to floss. I don’t care. What kind of flashy is, but I just want you to take a piece of floss. You’re going to take that and go underneath the wire and thread it through. Then you’re going to take your floss and you’re going to go between the teeth, go back and forth against the tooth and up under the gum line, and then do the same thing on the opposite side.

Once you’re done, you can either pull the floss through the teeth or you can pull it out from between the teeth and slide it out. You will do that in between each and every tooth.

Floss Fundamentals

To keep your teeth and gums clean and healthy, you need to floss at least once per day. But how do you get floss under the archwire of your braces? It’s not so hard with the help of a floss threader. Using this device is somewhat like threading a needle: You pull one end of floss through the threader, and then push the threader — carrying with it the free end of the floss — under the archwire. Now grasp the floss on each end and slide it up and down the sides of both teeth, and all the way under the gums until you hear a squeaky sound. Finally, pull it out and use a new section of floss for the next area.

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