April 29, 2021
Here at Dudley Smiles, the COVID-19 pandemic’s temporary closings and stay-at-home orders have meant that we have been unable to have patients visit our offices as much as we’d like to. If you’re a current patient of Dr. Dudley, you may be wondering how to care for your smile between orthodontic visits. Let’s explore how you can keep your teeth and oral appliances in great shape, especially when you have to wait a little longer to see us! Keep reading below for more information.
Upgrade your dental hygiene
Keeping your teeth and gums healthy is important and should always be a priority, but it’s a core part of your treatment plan, too. Tooth decay and gum disease can lead to complications in your treatment and may affect the final results. Whether you’re wearing traditional braces or clear aligners, there are some basics of dental hygiene that you should always maintain! These guidelines will help you maintain clean teeth, a healthy mouth, and fresh breath.
- Brush at least three times a day, ideally after each meal and once before bed.
- Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and fluoridated toothpaste.
- Electric toothbrushes are great, and generally help keep your teeth cleaner than a regular toothbrush.
- Brush gently at a 45-degree angle toward the gum line, moving the toothbrush in a circular pattern across the teeth to effectively remove bacteria and any trapped food particles.
- Floss at least once per day to remove bacteria and any food that has accumulated throughout the day.
- On top of flossing, a Waterpik can be a great additional plaque removal tool.
- Replace your toothbrush every 3-4 months, or sooner if you have a cold or any other illness.
- Use antimicrobial and fluoridated mouthwashes to help further improve your oral health.
If you’re wearing braces, you already know that it can take some skillful maneuvering to clean around the brackets and wires. For the best results, our doctors recommend:
- brushing around every part of your braces
- brushing every surface of every tooth
- brushing until your brackets are clean and shiny
- flossing every night before you go to bed
- using tools like floss threaders and Waterpiks to clean hard-to-reach areas
If you wear Invisalign, you should be following the same basic guidelines for dental hygiene, but you need to care for your aligners, too. Always rinse them off before putting them back in your mouth. Remember to clean them well when you brush your teeth – just brush them with the residual toothpaste after brushing your teeth. If you notice any build-up, you can soak your aligners in an oral apparatus cleaning fluid to remove it. Never clean them with or soak them in hot water and keep them away from heat sources so they retain their shape.
Follow your orthodontist’s advice!
If you’ve been given elastics to wear with your braces or aligners, ensure that you wear them exactly as directed. If you’ve recently completed treatment, continue to wear your retainer as directed by Dr. Dudley or Dr. Freelove.
Invisalign patients will normally be provided with all your aligners until your next refinement. Please look for stickers on your aligners that indicate you need to be seen in-office for an appointment. Our team is also available for video or telephone appointments if you have any questions or concerns. Socially distanced options like these mean that you can continue your treatment safely, conveniently, and without delay!
If you’re unable to visit in-office right away, you can continue wearing the last set of aligners you were given. However, you should only wear them 10-12 hours each day instead of the usual 20-22 hours. This shortened duration will help extend the life of your aligners until an appointment is available. This way you can keep your treatment plan on track and ensure that you don’t lose any important progress!
Limit your sugar intake
Cavities can have some negative effects on your treatment, which is unfortunate since most orthodontic procedures can increase the risk of cavities. To combat this, try and avoid sugary foods and drinks as much as you can. Snacks that are high in starch or sugar encourage plaque growth, which can lead to tooth decay or gum disease.
Sugar is also a carbohydrate, and carbs fuel the acidic compounds that cause cavities to form. This is bad enough on teeth without braces, but add in brackets and wires and you’ve got multiple places where bad bacteria can hide and multiply! Replace sugary drinks with water instead—it’s good for your body and can help flush food particles out of your braces and from in between your teeth.
Make a care kit for your braces
We recommend that all of our patients with braces stay prepared for unexpected orthodontic emergencies by keeping a “care kit” with them at all times. Some of the items we recommend including are:
- a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste for brushing wherever you are
- floss or ortho picks to use after eating if you have the time and space to do so
- orthodontic wax, which can be used to cover any areas causing you irritation
- extra rubber bands
- lip balm for dry lips resulting from braces
- a small cup for rinsing with water, which helps dislodge any trapped food particles
- an unsharpened pencil, as you can use the eraser end to push stray brace wires back into place
Toss these items in a small, portable bag and you’ll have everything you need in a pinch! This can end up saving you quite a bit of time, trouble, and discomfort if you need to perform unexpected care or you end up having to wait longer than expected for your next appointment.
Your smile is a team effort at Dudley Smiles
Even when you’re not physically in our Kent or Issaquah offices, we are here for you! Our expert team is here for you and we’re always happy to answer your questions or address any concerns you have about your treatment plan.
For more ways to be proactive with the orthodontic process, click here or get in touch to schedule an appointment with Dr. Dudley or Dr. Freelove.