National Orthodontic Health Month: Tips for Life with Braces
Did you know October is National Orthodontic Health Month? Getting used to braces can be a tricky transition, but there’s nothing scary about it. In the spirit of celebration, we’re sharing these tips that’ll leave you perfectly prepared for your orthodontic treatment – and remember, being able to take good care of your smile is a skill that never goes out of season!
Is it Normal for Braces to Hurt?
First of all, congratulations on beginning orthodontic treatment and getting one step closer to the perfect smile! If your set of braces is brand-new or has been recently adjusted, your teeth still may feel slightly sore and tender – but that’s no reason to worry. This initial “breaking-in” period is completely normal and the discomfort should subside as you get used to the feeling of braces on your teeth (if it doesn’t, don’t hesitate to contact your orthodontist).
Am I Too Old for Braces?
It’s never too late to commit to an even, dazzling smile! According to the American Association of Orthodontists, about one in five orthodontic patients today is an adult (many are in their 50s and above!). Since the bones in your mouth have stopped growing, getting braces as an adult means you have both more considerations and more options available to you. In addition to standard metal braces, you might also be eligible for clear aligners such as Invisalign®, lingual braces that are placed behind the teeth instead of in front, or tooth-colored ceramic braces — all of which are less aesthetically conspicuous than “old-fashioned” braces and might feel easier to incorporate into your existing routine.
There’s no time limit on moving healthy teeth! However, factors such as your bone structure, any teeth you’ve lost or had removed, and the extent of your malocclusion (the crookedness/misalignment of your teeth) will all affect the kind of treatment you’re able to receive – so make sure to consult your dentist and orthodontist if you’re interested in getting braces as an adult!
Can I Still Play Sports or a Musical Instrument with Braces?
Living with braces doesn’t have to be a drastic departure from your everyday life, but it does require a little more consideration! If you’re an athlete, braces shouldn’t interfere with your ability to play sports, but you might consider getting a special orthodontic mouthguard that’ll prevent your lips from bumping up against your teeth. Similarly, if you play a woodwind or brass musical instrument, braces shouldn’t affect your ability to play — but if you’re concerned about irritation, you can ask your orthodontist to place extra wax on the braces that make the most contact with your inner lip while playing.
How Do I Take Care of My Braces?
When eating with braces, preventing food from getting lodged inside will require more care and attention than usual. If not thoroughly cleaned, remnants of food particles can become trapped in between the hardware and build up around brackets – resulting in bad breath, discoloration, and the growth of cavity-causing bacteria! However, you can keep your smile healthy with a meticulous cleaning routine.
If possible, consider brushing and flossing as frequently as after every meal. If you’ve got a busy schedule, consider assembling a portable kit containing your toothbrush, floss, mouthwash, dental wax, etc. to make caring for your teeth as convenient as possible while on the go!
How Do I Brush and Floss with Braces?
In order to minimize the risk of plaque formation, make sure you’re paying extra attention to the areas below the gumline and brackets of your braces every time you brush! Flossing, both between your teeth and the wires of your braces, is also critical — if you’re having difficulty reaching those narrow spaces, consider using a floss threader or orthodontic flosser (both available at drugstores) to give you a better grip! Also, consider using waxed floss instead of unwaxed, which will feel more comfortable sliding between your teeth and is less likely to get stuck on your braces.
Another option is using an interdental brush and/or irrigator to clean your teeth. The thinner, more flexible bristles on an interdental brush can deftly navigate between brace wires with a greater range of motion than a larger, more rigid conventional toothbrush and might feel gentler on sensitive teeth than flossing. An irrigator, or water flosser, sprays a concentrated jet of water between your teeth to cleanse away lingering particles of food. If you’re unsure what cleaning options will be most effective for you, ask your dentist or orthodontist for advice!
What Should I Eat While Wearing Braces?
While braces themselves should never feel painful, your teeth will feel more sensitive following a readjustment or tightening. During this time, you should stick to foods with softer, smoother textures that don’t require much effort to chew — these will both facilitate easier cleaning and minimize the potential pain and strain on your teeth! Some braces-friendly foods include:
- Most dairy products – yogurt, pudding, milk-based drinks, soft cheeses
- Grains – oatmeal, rice, pasta
- Deli meats
- Soft fruits and jams
- Cooked vegetables
- Scrambled eggs
What Foods Should I Avoid While Wearing Braces?
While having to give up some of your favorite treats might feel difficult, it’s definitely worth it when compared to the potential time, discomfort, and expense of repairing damaged braces. As a ground rule, try to avoid foods that are exceptionally crunchy or sticky, as these are likely to break and clog your bands, brackets, and wires. Yes, that means forgoing the Halloween candy binge for now — but you’ll thank us later! Some foods to avoid while wearing braces include:
- Tough crusts, breadsticks, and croutons
- Sticky sweets — caramels, licorice, gummy bears, chewing gum, jelly beans
- Hard candies
- Hard fruits and uncooked vegetables — apples, carrot sticks, etc.
- Corn on the cob
Keep Your Braces in Peak Condition!
Accidents happen all the time, and at Orthodontics of Santa Barbara we’re always here to help. If the wires and/or bands on your braces loosen or break, don’t hesitate to call so we can schedule a time to get it repaired as swiftly as possible. For a temporary solution to a broken wire, you can cover the sharp end with some dental wax, a wet cotton ball, or even a piece of (ideally sugarless) gum if you don’t have anything else on hand. This will help prevent pain and avoid further damage if you can’t see us immediately!
Are you considering braces or just wondering about how to care for yours? Call Orthodontics of Santa Barbara at (805) 979-9070 today to schedule a consultation with us.