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Oral hygiene for braces

Orthodontic treatment is performed to straighten and properly align the teeth and jaws.

After the teeth have been straightened, they're generally much easier to take care of. Cleaning around orthodontic brackets and bands can be challenging, but it's very important to prevent tooth decay and frosty-white demineralized spots from damaging the teeth during treatment - which can last a couple of years.

A floss threader is a flexible, yet rigid plastic tool used to pass dental floss beneath the arch wires so that plaque can be removed from between the teeth. After you've passed it between the adjacent teeth, use an up-and-down motion to remove the plaque. Be sure to floss between all of the teeth every day using this device.

An interdental brush can remove plaque from around the brackets and in the triangular-shaped space formed by the arch wires and two adjacent teeth. Combined with regular tooth brushing, these devices can help keep the teeth and gums healthy, so that when the braces are removed, the teeth will look their best.

When brushing teeth with bands and brackets, it's especially important to clean beneath the gum line. Otherwise, the gums may become inflamed, swell up, and make it more difficult to insert a brush at all. Angle the bristle tips beneath the gum level; gently wiggle the brush across just a few teeth at a time, and sweep the plaque away.

If the brackets are positioned at the gum line, a toothpick may be useful to help remove the plaque. Gently draw the pick along the gum line, with its tip beneath the brackets. To avoid injuries, don't poke the toothpick forcefully into the gums.

Dental health professionals sometimes recommend other techniques for cleaning the teeth during orthodontic treatment, including oral irrigation devices and mechanical toothbrushes. Oral rinses, topical fluoride, and other preventive solutions may also be suggested. In some cases, it may be a good idea to consider having the teeth professionally cleaned more frequently during orthodontic treatment.