What to expect when living with braces
Our professional and courteous team at Ottawa Braces is dedicated to keeping you informed during every step of your treatment. Here is some information to get you started, but you can always reach us with more specific questions that you might have! Braces cause a major change in your teeth, and we don’t want you to be alarmed or concerned by any of the normal functions of braces.
Eating with braces
You will be able to eat and drink as you did before braces, but there might be some exceptions you’ll have to remove from your diet to get the best out of your dental appliances. Avoiding hard, crunchy foods as well as sticky foods is usually a good idea to help protect your braces from damage.
To get the most out of your braces, it is best to avoid or be extra careful when eating foods like:
- Bagels, hard rolls, licorice (chewy foods)
- Popcorn, ice, chips (crunchy foods)
- Caramels and gum (sticky foods)
- Nuts and candy (hard foods)
- Corn on the cob, apples, carrots (foods that you have to bite down hard into)
It should also be advised that biting on pen caps or your fingernails can also cause damage to your braces.
Brushing and flossing with your braces
Diligent oral hygiene is more important than ever when you’re wearing braces. Wires, braces, springs, rubber bands and most other dental appliances can attract food and plaque, which will stain or damage teeth, as well as grow bacteria if not brushed away. If you’re less than diligent about cleaning your teeth and braces, you might find yourself coming to the orthodontist more often for professional cleanings. It’s much easier to just take due care of your appliance at home. Most people will find that an extra degree of care is important when brushing or flossing with braces, but in time you will get the hang of it. Reach out to us with any questions you might have about keeping your teeth and your braces clean! Try brushing at a 45 degree angle to remove all food particles between your braces and teeth. Because it can be hard to get everything out from between your teeth and braces with just mouthwash and a toothbrush, many patients have found waterpiks to be extremely helpful in ridding their mouths of remaining food particles.
In addition to using a regular, soft-bristled toothbrush, you will be advised to use a proxabrush, or “Christmas tree” toothbrush. This type of brush is designed specifically for cleaning the spaces between your braces. Use this brush on every tooth to make sure that every tooth is cleared of remaining food particles.
Flossing teeth becomes more important when you have braces, as well. To floss your braces, feed the floss through the space between the main arch wire and the portion of the tooth closest to the gums. Use a gentle “sawing” motion to coax the floss up and down each side of the two teeth the floss in in-between. Be careful when doing this, as applying too much force can damage the arch wire.
If you are an adult with a history of gum disease, it is advised that you also see a periodontist during the course of your orthodontic treatment.
Caring for your appliance
If your braces become damaged, this will only cause your treatment process to become longer and possibly even more painful. The most important way to care for your braces is to keep them clean with fluoride toothpaste and a soft-bristled brush.
You might have other appliances to use when you have your braces. Rubber bands, headgear and other appliances must be worn as instructed by your orthodontist. Your teeth and jaws cannot move to their corrected positions unless these items are consistently used.
- Cleaning a removable appliance
Any removable appliance should be brushed as a daily part of your regular routine. Since food and plaque can build up on this appliance just as they do on regular teeth, it is important to soak your appliance once a day. To do this, dissolve a denture tablet such as Polident or Efferdent in a glass of room-temperature water. This is not a replacement for brushing your teeth!
Caring for your elastics
It is important to use your rubber bands as instructed, because failing to use them can cause soreness and be damaging to your teeth over time. Here are some tips for caring for your elastics to get the best results out of your braces:
- Always carry extra rubber bands with you. This way, if one breaks it can be immediately replaced.
- If you forget to wear your elastics one day, do not double up on them the following day. Just follow the regular instructions.
- Because rubber bands are prone to wearing out, it is important to change them semi-frequently. Rubber bands with less elasticity do not provide effective pressure to your jaws and teeth.
- Change your elastics after every meal, no matter what.
- If your rubber bands break all the time, or the hook for your rubber bands breaks off, call our office immediately.
Retainers and expanders
Your orthodontist will let you know if retainers or expanders will be a necessary part of your treatment. Many people end up using these appliances after their braces have been removed, to maintain the new position of the teeth. Carefully follow your orthodontist’s instructions to get the best care out of your retainer or expander.
Caring for your retainer
Retainers should be worn full-time, unless your orthodontist instructs otherwise. The only times when you should remove them are when you are eating and brushing your teeth. Whenever the retainer is not in your mouth, it is vital to put it back into its case. Pets love to chew on them if they are left out, and retainers can be easily lost if left out of their cases. Did you know that most retainers are lost in restaurants and school lunch rooms?
Retainers can be easily broken, but with proper care they can last for many years. Cleaning your appliance is necessary to keeping it from breaking or gathering bacteria, which is bad for your overall mouth health. Clean it once a day with toothpaste and a toothbrush, just as you do with your teeth. You may use denture tablets like Efferdent to clean them, but this should not be used as a substitute for brushing. If your retainer ever breaks, call us immediately!
You should also give us a call if your retainer needs adjusting. Do not try and adjust it yourself, as this can lead to it breaking.
If you go swimming, you need to remove your retainer. It is important to keep it away from chemicals and extreme heat or cold. Always check your pockets before putting laundry into the washing machine, because a retainer will not do well in a washer or dryer.
Caring for your removable extender
Unlike retainers, removable expanders should be worn all of the time-even when you are sleeping and eating. They should only be removed for when you brush your teeth. At this time, it is important to brush your extender as well, with regular toothpaste and a toothbrush.
Caring for your fixed expander
Your orthodontist will instruct you to turn your expansion screws. Follow their instructions exactly. To turn your expansion screws, simply insert the key into the hole and turn toward the arrow. If you are ever unable to keep a scheduled appointment, stop turning the expander. Your dentist needs to be able to monitor your expander accurately.
Athletic mouth guards
If you live an active lifestyle and play any kind of contact sport, we highly recommend using a mouth guard when playing, to protect both your braces and the overall health of your mouth. In fact, it’s recommended to use a mouth guard even when participating in non-contact sports, because any sport increases the overall risk of injury. If you are hit in the mouth without a mouth guard in place, this can cause injury to your face and mouth, as well as to the braces themselves. This can be an expensive and painful fix.
We generally advise to avoid any sport where you know you will be struck in the face, such as during boxing. If an accident happens that causes damage to your teeth or your appliance, phone us immediately for an appointment.
For three to five days after first having your braces put on, you will likely experience some degree of pain or discomfort for three to five days. Your teeth may be especially tender to biting, so for these first few days, it is best to stick with soft foods to minimize your discomfort. Avoid tough meats, raw vegetables and bread.
A warm salt water rinse can help alleviate the pain. Put a single teaspoon of salt into an eight ounce glass of water and rinse your mouth. You can do this several times to reduce pain as long as you follow these instructions. If the pain is severe or can’t be relieved with a salt water mouthwash, then try taking your usual over-the-counter pain reliever such as Naproxen sodium or aspirin.
Your lips, cheeks and tongue might experience some irritation as a result of your new braces. This should only be temporary, until they adjust to the presence of your braces in your mouth. Apply wax to your braces to minimize the discomfort caused by this. Don’t know how? Don’t worry-we’ll show you!
Loosening of teeth
Do not be alarmed when you see that your teeth have become loosened during the process of shifting! This is normal, and required to happen for your teeth to move into their corrected positions.
Appointments to adjust your braces
Your braces will feel tighter after adjustment as a result of the replacement wires tightening around your teeth to prepare to move them into position. This tightness usually dulls down into soreness for duration of about four to six hours. Over the counter pain relievers are recommended to reduce this discomfort, same as when you first got your braces placed.