All orthodontic patients must know how to clean braces, regardless of age. Orthodontic care is a serious investment of a family’s time and finances. By learning about proper orthodontic home care in advance, patients will be prepared for the time commitment necessary to maintain oral health during and following orthodontic care.
What Gets Caught around Braces
Each type of orthodontic hardware, including wires, bands, brackets, expanders, springs, elastics and screws, poses its own unique challenges for the patient when it comes to cleaning. All this hardware provides additional surfaces for food debris, plaque biofilm and acids to adhere and collect in these areas of the mouth that are very difficult to clean.
The tiny germs first find an effective place to hide around orthodontic hardware and between teeth, growing into larger colonies of plaque biofilm. As readily available food particles are digested by the germ colonies, the plaque biofilm masses process the food debris. Acid is the by-product of this germ digestion process. These acids etch around the brackets and bands, creating the white chalky orthodontic spots often shown to patients before they pursue braces. The good news is that these spots can be prevented if a patient is taught how to clean braces properly.
Cleaning Braces at Home
The proper removal of food debris, biofilm and acids from around the braces will protect the teeth and gums from being affected by oral care diseases. Patients must be reminded before the placement of orthodontics that a higher level of at-home care will help decrease the incidence of tooth decay. Specialized equipment is recommended for cleaning teeth with braces. The standard tools for cleaning braces at home include a high-quality toothbrush, floss/interdental cleaners and an at-home oral irrigation system.
Toothbrushing: Whether manual or electric, a toothbrush with soft bristles and a compact head is best for cleaning teeth with braces. Always remember to remove elastics before brushing so hooks and wires are not disturbed.
The following are some toothbrushing instructions to assist you in cleaning your braces:
1. The toothbrush should be held at a 45-degree angle at the gum line and brushed back and forth and then swept toward the biting surface of the teeth.
2. Brush the top and bottom surfaces of the brackets to remove plaque and food debris as well as the front of the bracket and wires. It may be beneficial to physically hold back the lip with one hand and brush the bracket areas.
Fluoride Treatment and Germ Killers
Although topical fluoride is very important to use regardless of whether you have braces, fluoride becomes even more important during and immediately following orthodontic care. Since braces make teeth tougher to clean, the risk for tooth decay increases with braces. A fluoride rinse can decrease this risk.
The delight of having your braces taken off to reveal a beautiful smile can often be overshadowed by a diagnosis of cavities throughout the mouth, but these cavities can be prevented. Don’t let them happen to you! By learning how to clean braces effectively before their placement, both patients and parents can be proud of a newly aligned smile.
It used to be that with age came tooth loss — and, in many cases, dentures. But thanks to better preventive measures, more seniors are keeping their natural teeth longer and reaping the benefits. Having a healthy, functional and attractive smile is important at every stage of life. If you have your own teeth, or most of them, into your senior years, you look and feel better.
Oral and overall health – the connection:
Continuing to take good care of our mouths is as important as taking care of the rest of our bodies. Our quality of life is affected by what we eat, and the ability to chew comfortably aids in digestion and proper nutrition. As well, growing evidence shows a possible link between gum disease and a variety of serious health conditions, including heart disease, stroke and respiratory disorders — all of which are more prevalent in later life. Keeping your mouth healthy as you age requires diligent do-it-yourself care. That means flossing, brushing and rinsing. Care for all patients, including seniors, is now very much individualized based on risk assessment. If a senior has a dental implant, for example, that will require additional oral hygiene techniques. Work with Dr. Jaleel and the rest of the dental team to come up with the best techniques for your mouth.
You’re never too old to visit your dentist:
Regular cleanings and oral exams are cornerstones of good dental health. Besides checking out the condition of your teeth (or implants or dentures) and existing dental work such as fillings, root canals and crowns, your dentist will also examine your gums for signs of disease. The condition of your mouth can reflect the condition of your overall health. Bleeding gums, for example, might indicate the beginning of gum disease, which could also be related to diabetes, if your gums have been otherwise healthy. The major disease, which should be screened for in every patient, regardless of age, is oral cancer.
Good communication is key:
Make sure you review and update your medical history at every visit. Tell Dr. Jaleel about any prescription and over-the-counter drugs you’re taking, any surgeries you’ve had (especially those involving the heart or joints — artificial knee or hip replacements, for example) and any existing health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease or cancer that can affect your oral health. You want to make sure that any possible negative interactions are avoided and appropriate precautions are taken before beginning routine dental procedures. If you’ve had a hip or knee replacement or have a heart murmur, for example, you may need antibiotics before any dental work in order to reduce the risk of infection.
Tips for Caregivers
Caregivers should ensure that a senior’s daily oral hygiene is kept up. Three dental experts offer these helpful tips:
- If seniors have good habits, don’t mess with their routine. If they need help, be gentle since their tissue is fragile.
- Seniors with arthritis or other dexterity problems may have trouble holding a toothbrush or using floss. The use of newer oral aids, such as electric toothbrushes with special heads and other oral devices, can make a big difference in oral hygiene.
- Seniors are often on one or more medications, which may cause dry mouth or xerostomia. Often loved ones will bring them beverages and candies to help moisten the mouth. Candies sweetened with xylitol are a good option since they help stimulate saliva without the plaque producing effects of sugar.
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We’re all familiar with it. You’re at your regular dental check-up appointment, and with a scrutinous raised eyebrow, the dentist asks you, “Have you been flossing?” Most of us, unfortunately, avoid eye contact as we mutter a response that is either a guilty exaggeration of your actual habits or a quiet confession that no, likely not as often as your dentist would like you to.
You return home from your Ottawa dentist with your complimentary floss (maybe even in an enticing flavour) and vow to change your ways – only to be met with bleeding gums that further discourage you from making the habit stick. The unfortunate paradox is that when you try to do your gums right, they retaliate, so after time what seemed like a simple task becomes overlooked and under-prioritized. For that reason of itself too, you might justify skipping the floss after brushing your teeth. Besides, how much of a difference can sliding some string between your teeth really do?
Well, the answer is a lot. And the implications might surprise you since the benefits of regularly flossing go beyond just your dental hygiene.
Brushing your teeth only cleans the outer surfaces, and even adding an antibacterial mouthwash may only rinse away some bacteria that cause plaque. Flossing is the only method to clean the tight spaces between teeth and gums.
Halitosis is one of the first indications that someone might not be flossing – and depending on the severity it may be an indication you can notice from a distance, since halitosis is just the medical term for bad breath. Periodontal disease is another term that, by the sounds of it, would intimidate anyone into flossing. Periodontal diseases refer to any disease that affects tissues that support your teeth. Gingivitis is one such cause of the disease. Gingivitis is the inflammation of your gums caused by the accumulation of plaque – another term we hear in the dentist chair or on toothpaste commercials. Besides the unattractive yellowing appearance it gives to your teeth, gingivitis causes sensitivities, worsens halitosis, and hardens into tartar – which can then only be removed in the dental chair. Worst of all, these bacterial accumulations can lead to eventual tooth loss.
A case of gingivitis.
The American Academy of Periodontology now say that there are studies that suggest a correlation between failing to floss and heart disease. Since the bacteria from plaque can enter the bloodstream via your gums, the manifestation of cavities, missing teeth, or gum disease can be as accurate for predicting heart disease as cholesterol levels.
Moral of the story, if you ignore your teeth, they will go away. So don’t wait any longer – your health is hanging by a thread! Grab a hold and get flossing – ensuring your future and smile will be a bright one,