Maintaining Clean Teeth
Everyone knows cleaning your teeth is essential for maintaining oral health. Yet, it can be easier said than done when dental appliances obstruct your toothbrush or floss.
Traditional braces use metal brackets fixed to the front surface of teeth with a metal wire threaded through each bracket. So, how can you prevent bacteria buildup during orthodontic treatment? Is there an alternative better than traditional floss?
Flossing Methods for Braces
Flossing with braces can be challenging. Fortunately, there’s more than one way to floss your teeth!
Traditional floss gets its strength from a bunch of tightly twisted nylon strands. Although the strands stay together well when flossing space-out teeth, tight spaces can cause the strands to shred.
Standard floss is available waxed or unwaxed. People with braces or orthodontics may benefit from using waxed floss. Unwaxed floss can get stuck quickly, potentially getting trapped or torn in the metal brackets.
The beginning steps for traditional floss are the same whether or not you have braces.
- Start by cutting an 18–24-inch piece of floss.
- Thread the floss between the wire and your teeth. Looking in a mirror can help you watch your actions.
- Wrap the ends of the floss around your index fingers to secure the floss.
- Gently press the floss between 2 teeth, sliding up and down along both sides. The action should resemble a u-shape (lower teeth) or an upside-down u-shape (upper teeth).
- Be careful of “popping” the floss out when moving between teeth. Remove the floss gently to avoid knocking the braces wire out of the bracket.
A floss threader is commonly recommended for braces, dental bridges, and fixed dental appliances. The tool can help speed up the process by making it easier to pull floss behind the braces wire.
A floss threader is like threading a sewing needle. You push one end of dental floss through the opening or loop and then use the threader to pull floss over the braces wire. The process is similar to traditional flossing:
- Start by cutting an 18–24-inch piece of floss and threading it through the eye of the floss threader.
- Insert the point of the threader under the braces wire (the opening closest to your gumline). The threader pulls the floss through.
- Take both ends of the piece of floss, wrapping the ends around your index fingers. You may set the threader aside to floss or hold onto it until you move to the next tooth.
- Floss using the u-shape (lower teeth) and upside-down u-shape (upper teeth).
- You will need to re-thread the floss through the eye of the threader for each tooth.
Dental tape is used the same way as traditional floss, but the material is sometimes considered more comfortable. The material is thin and wide, resembling a small ribbon, and can feel smoother and spongier. Dental tape can glide more easily between tight teeth.
Getting your braces tightened can sometimes cause increased discomfort as your teeth and gums adjust to the new pressure. Dental tape can be more comfortable when flossing between sore teeth and gums.
Use dental tape the same way you would traditional floss, with or without a dental threader.
Water flossing uses a Waterpik or oral irrigator—a handheld device that emits a steady, targetted stream of water. The device is easy to use and can benefit patients with hard-to-reach or tight spaces in their mouths. Water flossers can also keep your breath fresher for longer.
Some patients find water flossers messier. During the initial learning curve, you may turn the stream up too high and end up spraying water. So while some leakage can happen, most people can reduce the mess after some practice.
Before you begin, check the water level in the reservoir and fill it if necessary. Next, adjust the water pressure to a comfortable level. Now you can start flossing:
- Start with the back teeth (top and bottom) and work toward the front.
- Aim the water flosser tip at the gumline and then glide the stream between each tooth.
- Next, guide the stream around the bracket.
- You might gently brush around the bracket to help loosen debris or bacteria before using the water flosser.
- Allow water to drain from your mouth into the sink.
An interdental brush is a tiny, flexible brush with a metal core surrounded by bristles. The 360-degree scrubbing potential makes cleaning more thoroughly in tight spaces easier. Additionally, like a pre-cut dental floss pick, an interdental brush can make flossing more convenient and easier to handle.
To use an interdental brush:
- Insert the brush under the wire (the space closest to the gumline) and gently push the bristles between the teeth.
- Use a gentle back-and-forth motion and glide the brush along the sides of each tooth.
More Care Tips from Your Dentist
Caring for your oral health can seem more complicated with braces. But you don’t need to struggle through the experience alone. Your dentist can offer advice to make things easier, from cleaning to eating.
Hill Top Dental Centre is your source for comprehensive dental care and hygiene. We strive to deliver the friendly, compassionate dental care you can trust. So whether you need tips about flossing or routine cleaning, we’re here to help! Book an appointment today.