Whether you're someone who has recently had braces put on, or the parent of someone who has, this article is relevant to you.
You've just invested a huge amount of money in straightening your or your child's teeth, so of course you want them to look amazing at the end of orthodontic treatment. The whole point of orthodontics is to make your teeth and gums healthier, as well as making them look better. As you've probably discovered, keeping your braces clean can be difficult. If you're cleaning your braces properly, it generally takes about twice as long to clean your teeth as it did before braces. If you're not spending this amount of time, you're probably not doing it correctly.
Everyone who gets braces on at North Brisbane Dental Clinic receives a goody bag with all the essentials for cleaning your braces, as well as a lesson in how to do it. Sometimes we need a refresher course down the line, which we're always more than happy to spend time on.
Here are some tips and tricks for you to be aware of, so that when you finally get your braces off, your smile is something to be happy about!
Here is a wonderful example of braces being kept squeeky clean. This patient, as well as having some admirable Christmas spirit, is doing a great job of cleaning. You can see that the brackets (individual metal things glued to each tooth) are clean around the edges. The gums look pink and healthy and are not at all swollen. You can also see that there are gaps between the brackets and the gums ie the gums haven't overgrown. This is what everyone's braces should look like.
The photo shows correct brushing technique for your braces. Not how the toothbrush head is sitting above the wire, so the bristles are cleaning the part of the tooth that sits between the wire and the gums. This area is the most difficult area to clean, and so is also the area where most plaque accumulates. With the brush in this position, just jiggle it back and forth gently, so you can feel the bristles touching the gums and going under the orthodontic wire. Once you've cleaned above and below the wire in this fashion, scrub the top, chewing (occlusal) surfaces of the teeth as you normally would. You should brush your teeth at least twice per day.
This image shows you how to use our secret weapon, the interdental brush. These little brushes are the key to keeping your braces spick and span. At least once per day, usually after brushing, you go around with one of these brushes and clean under the wire in between each bracket. After using these interdental brushes, also know as pixters, your brackets should be nice and clean.
Now for a serious dose of reality. This is what happens if you don't clean your braces properly. In this photo, you can see plaque accumulating around the brackets and on the gum line. The gums are red and inflamed, and on the back teeth, have overgrown so that they're touching the brackets. This is very, very, very bad!! If one of our patients turns up with teeth like this (and it has happened), we reinforce the importance of hygiene and go over correct cleaning techniques again. And again, and again, and again until they are able to clean their braces well!
This picture is the saddest of all. This shows the end result of not cleaning your braces properly. This person has got beautifully shaped teeth that are perfectly straight, but they've got demineralisation all over their enamel. You can see the outline of where the brackets were, and how the surrounding enamel has gone chalky white, leaving the rest of the teeth looking motley and off colour. A result like this is just terrible, and we don't ever want to see it.
So next time your dentist or our lovely hygienist is nagging you about cleaning your braces, please, please, please listen! We all want your teeth to look beautiful when your braces come off, and if you can keep them clean, they will.