How To Maintain Your Braces

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Orthodontic braces are generally worn for 18 to 30 months. It is therefore vital for a patient to keep them and their teeth clean in order to prevent massive tooth decay. These days, they can be removable, like Invisalign, or not. Braces, like the traditional metal variety, that have been installed in the patient’s mouth are difficult to clean. Plaque and food can get trapped in the spaces between the wires and brackets and thus cause enamel stains and decay. Food can also react with the metal in them and the bacteria in the mouth to permanently bleach the teeth, producing light spots.

Metal Orthodontics

These are by far the most common type, and many of the rules that apply to them will apply to other varieties. For example, brackets and wires do make it harder to keep one’s teeth clean, for they provide more nooks and crannies for plaque and food particles to hide. Similarly, the wires and brackets can very easily trap food particles.

In the interest of not getting a lot cavities or discolored teeth, it is vital to keep one’s teeth clean. Patients therefore must brush and floss their teeth and use mouthwash. Some experts recommend brushing between the metal and gum twice to make certain of getting everything. Similarly, when flossing, they should floss under the wire.

Water Piks and proxy brushes can be even more effective than dental floss. A proxy brush or tree brush is a small brush designed to go between the teeth. Like dental floss, it can scrape away bacteria colonies and dislodge bits of food. Unlike dental floss, it can also massage the gums. Proxy brushes can be found in drugstores.

There are also foods that patients need to avoid, for they can cause damage. Sticky foods like bubble gum or taffy, for instance can pull wires or even brackets loose. They can also stick to the brackets. Hard foods like popcorns, jerky, ice, some nuts and hard candy can break the wires and loosen the brackets. Crunchy foods like carrots and apples can also damage wires. Hard or crunchy foods that are part of a healthy diet should be cut into small, bite-sized pieces to minimize the risk of damage.

Patients should avoid sweet and/or starchy food and drinks like soda and candy. Such foods can cause gum disease and tooth decay – and the orthodontic apparatus already makes cleaning teeth thoroughly more difficult.

On the other hand, patients should eat soft foods that won’t damage the apparatus, and they should also eat foods with little acid, for they won’t damage the tooth enamel. Examples of low-acid foods include bananas, eggs, milk and seafood. Soft foods include such options as yogurt, pasta, steamed vegetables, soup and chili. Patients can also enjoy soft breads like pancakes, tortillas, muffins and biscuits. Soft meats include bologna, meatball, turkey, and soft-cooked chicken.

Ceramic Orthodontics

This type is designed to be unnoticeable. The brackets, elastic bands and sometimes the wires are made to match the color of the patient’s teeth. It works – but they are prone to staining, and the elastics are especially likely to get stained. Clear elastics are the most vulnerable to stains. No matter how meticulous the patient is, though, they will need to get the elastic bands changed periodically.

As usual, the patient’s orthodontist will strongly urge them to practice good oral hygiene. That means brushing, flossing and using a mouthwash after every meal. Some orthodontists recommend using a WaterPik as well as flossing. Patients should use ordinary toothpaste and avoid whitening toothpaste, for the latter can cause spots on the teeth where the toothbrush couldn’t reach.

Patients who smoke should quit immediately, for smoking can stain both the teeth and the brackets. Some foods can also cause stains. Generally speaking, the foods in question have deep, dark colors. Patients wearing ceramic orthodontics should therefore avoid coffee, berries, red wine, beets, colored candy, soy sauce, soda, and pomegranates.

Lingual Orthodontics

These are also sometimes also called “inside braces.” They are basically metal brackets and wires attached to the backs of the teeth. This has the virtue of keeping them hidden, but it can make cleaning them and the teeth difficult. Some experts recommend using an electric toothbrush to clean the teeth, for it is less likely to miss places. Water Piks and proxy brushes can also be used in lieu of dental floss.


These orthodontics need to be handled a bit differently since they are removable. Basically, the patient has to clean their teeth and aligners separately. They will clean their teeth in the usual fashion by brushing and flossing. The patient should take care to brush and floss their teeth before reinserting their aligners to make sure no food gets trapped between the aligner and the patient’s teeth.

The aligners need to be kept clean so they will remain clear, clean and don’t start to smell. Not cleaning them lets bacteria grow on them. As they are delicate, the patient should take them out when they are eating. In addition, most food and drinks, other than water, can stain the aligners and make them smell.

The patient should never let the aligners dry out, for dry plaque and saliva can encourage bacteria to breed. After taking the aligners out, they should rinse them and soak them in a cleaner. The orthodontist will probably recommend one. Common choices include Retainer Brite, Invisalign Cleaning Crystals and Denture Cleaner.

The patient should also gently clean their aligners with a clear anti-bacterial soap. They should not use toothpaste, since some types can be abrasive, and they must not use colored soaps, for that can stain the aligners.

Schedule an Appointment with Tisseront Orthodontics

At Tisseront Orthodontics in Reston, Va., you can receive a free consultation with Dr. Stephan Tisseront to learn more about your orthodontic options. Our orthodontist takes care of children, teenagers and adults at our top-of-the-line office, and he offers these treatments:

• Lingual braces – worn on the backs of teeth
• Invisalign – aligners for teenagers or adults
• Ceramic orthodontia – made with clear wires and color-matching brackets

It is also possible to reduce your orthodontic treatment time by using a small device from AcceleDent Aura that helps to accelerate the movement of your teeth into the correct positions.

Call us today at 703-773-1200 to schedule an examination with Dr. Tisseront in our state-of-the-art orthodontic facility.

Tisseront Orthodontics
11720 Plaza America Drive, Ste. 110 Reston VA 20190-4762

Phone: (703)773-1200