If you have children who wear braces, make sure they know the proper brushing technique and that they brush their teeth regularly, ideally also at school.
Brush regularly and for long enough
Dentists recommend that everyone – whether or not they wear braces – brush their teeth at the beginning of the day, after every meal, and before bed.
Most people don’t brush their teeth for long enough. Brushing should take at least two minutes, in order to really cover all the surfaces of the teeth. For example, if you divide your mouth in four zones (upper left, upper right, lower left, lower right), you should spend about 30 seconds per zone.
Use the right toothbrush
Although there are orthodontic toothbrushes specially designed for braces, any toothbrush can be used with braces. However, it is best to choose a toothbrush with a smaller head, because it makes it easier to move the brush all around the mouth and get to hard-to-reach surfaces, especially in the back of the mouth.
It is also recommended to use a soft toothbrush, since soft bristles are just as effective as stiffer bristles, while being gentler on the gums.
Electric toothbrushes are also an excellent choice, especially since they usually feature a timer that lets the user know when the recommended brushing time has elapsed.
It’s important to rinse the brush well and to let it air-dry after each use.
A toothbrush should be changed regularly:
- every 3 months, or sooner if the bristles are worn out (the edges start to curl), and
- after being sick (e.g. a cold or gastroenteritis)
Adapt the technique to brush around the brace components
When wearing braces, it can be complicated to brush around the various brace components, such as brackets, wires and springs.
These components make it impossible to brush the whole tooth surface at once, so the wearer must proceed in steps, for example by brushing:
- the upper section of the tooth, i.e. from the gum line to the brackets
- the lower section of the tooth, i.e. from the brackets to the edge of the teeth
- each side of the bracket, by going underneath the wires
During brushing, tilt the brush head slightly in order to reach the sides of the brackets and dislodge any food residue that may have accumulated there.
To clean between the brackets, use the toothbrush or simplify the task by using dental picks (little brushes shaped like pine trees) that easily slide under the wires.
Avoid using a horizontal side-to-side motion while brushing, because it can irritate the gums and can wear out the surface of the teeth, especially if too much pressure is applied. Small circular patterns are best.
What about flossing?
Flossing helps us access the areas that can’t be reached with a toothbrush, but it can be difficult to do when wearing braces! Floss threaders and orthodontic floss can greatly facilitate the job. This type of floss has a rigid tip that makes it easy to slide under wires and between the teeth.
Lacking the time or motivation to floss? Try to at least get one flossing done per day, ideally before bed.
Tips for school
- Put together a kit that includes a toothbrush, toothpaste, floss (or dental picks), and make sure to write your child’s name on the items.
- While at school, brace wearers should be encouraged to brush their teeth after lunch. If they refuse or forget to do so, they should at the very least rinse their teeth after lunch, and brush their teeth as soon as they get home from school.
- Since the school kit toothbrush won’t be used as often as the one at home, you can wait longer before changing it. For example, you could check the kit contents over the Christmas break and make any necessary changes.
- Remind your child that a toothbrush should never be shared.