If you or anyone in your family is contemplating orthodontic treatment, be warned—brushing and flossing can be a challenge with a mouthful of braces. However, it’s important to keep at it. Without first-rate care and timely dental visits, the beautiful smile you are anxiously anticipating could be marred by dental disease.
While you may have dental benefits to help with some of the costs, a key to making the most of your dental insurance for braces is doing whatever is necessary for a successful outcome. Here are a few tips for protecting your investment and preparing for that sterling smile.
Find Partners for Success
If you need braces, your general dentist will refer you to an orthodontist for an evaluation and proposed treatment plan. Aligning and moving teeth into their proper positions is not an overnight process, so you could be seeing your orthodontist for up to two years. Both dental professionals want your treatment to be successful, but you need to understand that without your cooperation and adherence to their specific instructions, you could be risking this significant investment in your dental health.
Plan Orthodontic Visits
After getting your braces, you’ll need to see your orthodontist for frequent adjustment visits. While there may seem to be no end to these numerous, short appointments, they are critical to a positive outcome. As noted by the American Association of Orthodontics, this is when your orthodontist tweaks the tension on your braces and closely monitors the movement of your teeth, as well as the general health of your teeth and gums.
Like them or not, if you miss these visits, you may be extending the time you need to wear your braces. Always call your orthodontist if a bracket comes loose, a wire breaks or you misplace your retainer (or aligner).
Commit to an Oral Hygiene Routine
Food and decay-causing bacteria can find hiding places around the bands and brackets of your braces, and all of this hardware makes it even trickier to keep your teeth clean. However, this is a critical time to have the best oral hygiene routine possible. When your braces are removed, you don’t want to end up with staining or white spots resulting from enamel decalcification.
Normally, good oral hygiene consists of flossing daily and brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste. However, with braces, your dentist and orthodontist will want you to brush after every meal and before bed. It’s a good idea to keep an extra brush and toothpaste at work.
You’ll find it’s tedious to get all of the debris off the braces and it’s difficult to brush around your gums. Flossing is also more of a task, since you need to navigate around and between wires and brackets. The good news is there are flossing aids that make the job easier. Your dentist and orthodontist will be happy to suggest tools that will work for you, and show you how to use them. And for extra decay protection, your dentist may recommend a fluoride rinse.
Monitor Foods and Personal Habits
To reduce the risk of tooth decay, try to limit between-meal snacks and sugary treats. Stay away from foods like popcorn, nuts, sticky candies, gum and corn-on-the-cob, since they are difficult to clean off and can damage your braces. If you are active in sports, wear a mouthguard to protect your lips, teeth and braces. The Academy of General Dentistry also warns people with braces not to chew on ice, push their tongue against their teeth, suck their fingers or bite their lips.
Attend Dental Checkups
Even though you’ll see your orthodontist frequently, it’s vital that you don’t skip out on your regular dental checkups. These twice-a-year appointments give your general dentist the opportunity to clean your teeth thoroughly and take care of small problems so they don’t interfere with your orthodontic treatment. If you’ve slacked off with your at-home routine, the dental staff can get you back on track and show you how to overcome any obstacles.
While orthodontic treatment is a bit pricey, it is considered to be well worth the investment. Just as your dental insurance for braces can help to defray some of the costs, impeccable care, regular dental visits and strict adherence to your orthodontist’s guidance will ensure that you not only have straight teeth but beautiful, healthy teeth as well.