How to Care for Your Braces and Retainers

Whether you’re straightening your teeth with metal braces, clear braces, or clear aligners, their success and your oral health depend on what you do every day to take care of them. 

Our team of experts at LM Orthodontics in McLean, Virginia, understands exactly what your teeth straightening system means to you: months of commitment, hard-earned money, and the sacrifice of time and aesthetics. The last thing you want to do is prolong your treatment or inadvertently cause other dental issues because you neglected to care for your appliances.

That’s why we’ve compiled these guidelines for regular maintenance of your braces and retainers, so you have all the info at your fingertips whenever you need it.

Caring for braces

Traditional braces, whether metal or clear ceramic, are permanently affixed to your teeth, so you don’t need to remove them for cleaning or eating, but they still take some special attention.

Watch out for dangerous foods

The first step in caring for your fixed metal or clear braces is to take us seriously when we tell you to avoid hard, chewy, tough, and sticky foods. Biting down on these types of snacks can damage your braces and cause a setback in your treatment, or at least an extra office visit.

These kinds of foods tend to get stuck in between the wires and in the nooks and crannies your toothbrush can’t reach well. This, of course, opens the door for bacteria, plaque, and tartar to build up, which eventually leads to tooth decay.

Don’t brush off flossing

The great part about braces is that they’re strong, stable, and very effective at straightening your crooked teeth. The downside is that all those wires and brackets create tiny little caves for food particles and bacteria.

While flossing is important for everyone, when you have braces, it’s even more critical. We show you how to thread your floss through the opening above the arch and into the space between your teeth and gums. It’s best to use a gentle sawing motion to remove any plaque that might be lurking. 

We also recommend using a proxabrush, the tool that looks like a little Christmas tree, to clean between the braces. If you’re feeling adventurous, try a water- or air-powered flosser.

Protect your braces

Although they’re pretty sturdy, braces aren’t invincible, as any athlete can tell you. If you play sports and there’s even a remote chance you could get hit in the mouth, make sure you wear a mouthguard to cushion the blow and protect your braces and the soft tissues in your mouth.

Come see us to fix broken braces

Accidents happen, and braces break now and then. Don’t panic. In most cases, you can simply use a small piece of dental wax to cover a protruding wire or carefully bend it into a position that won’t poke you until you can come in and see us.

If you sustain a severe blow that breaks your braces and injures your mouth or face, come see us right away. But for minor cuts and irritations, rinsing with warm salt water can soothe the discomfort and ward off infection.

Caring for retainers

After you’re done wearing your braces, you enter the retainer phase of your orthodontic treatment. Retainers make sure your teeth don’t shift back into their original crooked position, so it’s important to wear them as instructed. It’s also important to keep them clean.

Fixed retainer care

Depending on what kind of straightening treatment you had, you may move on to a fixed retainer that attaches to the backside of your teeth. Cleaning this appliance feels a lot like caring for your braces, as you may still need to thread your floss through tiny openings. But brushing is normal and easy.

Removal retainer care

If you’re eligible for a removable retainer, flossing becomes a breeze, since you can simply take out your retainer and slide the floss up and down between your teeth.

But when it’s out, make sure you clean it with a denture cleaner or other special solution — not toothpaste — so you don’t scratch or abrade it. 

Protect your retainer by keeping it out of extreme temperatures and putting it in its case or in a cleaning solution when it’s not in your mouth.

To learn more about the dos and don’ts of caring for braces and retainers, or to find out which teeth straightening treatment is right for you, contact our friendly team at 703-498-2047 to set up an appointment today. 

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