Expectations and Care

What is expected of me during treatment?

A Patient Brushing Her Teeth
Like other types of health care, patient cooperation with the directions of the orthodontist are key in determining the length of treatment and the quality of the outcome. Patients cannot sit back and relax and let the braces do all the work for them. In many instances, patients’ cooperation is needed to help make sure the bite is right. Aligned teeth within each jaw won’t stay optimally aligned unless the teeth of each jaw fit properly together. Patient compliance with elastic wear, functional appliance wear or headgear wear can be very important in insuring a successful outcome.  In addition, you must continue to see your dentist at least every six months, or more often if recommended, for check-ups and professional cleanings.

Proper cleaning of the teeth to remove food debris and plaque is important to prevent cavities, gum disease and permanent scarring of the enamel.

Keeping braces from breaking or wires from getting bent will speed treatment. Avoiding hard, sticky, and chewy foods, including ice, will go a long way in preventing broken braces. Pen and pencil chewing should also be avoided.

In general, you should expect to be an active partner in the development of your new smile. It is your smile, after all.

How do I take care of my braces?

Extra time is needed with toothbrushing to make sure that all areas around the braces have been cleaned properly. Specialized brush tips are available to help get in between the braces and under the wires. Floss-threaders are helpful in passing floss under archwires to facilitate flossing of the teeth. Oral irrigators are often helpful to dislodge food debris from around the teeth. Over-the-counter mouth rinses can be used in conjunction with oral irrigators to help reduce the level of bacteria around the teeth.

A patient brushing his teeth
Extra time is needed with toothbrushing
A patient using a specialized brush tip
Specialized brush tips help get in between braces and under wires

The goal is to remove plaque from around the teeth and gums. It is the bacteria in plaque that is responsible for causing inflamed gum tissue (gingivitis) (see photo below), permanent scarring of enamel (decalcification) (see photo below), as well as tooth decay.  Remember, braces don’t cause these problems, they just make cleaning the teeth more difficult. 

Note the reddened areas of gum where the gum meets the teeth.  This is gingivitis.

Note the white decalcification spots on these teeth.

Avoiding hard, sticky, crunchy and chewy foods will also keep your braces intact and help to make your treatment flow smoothly.


©2006 American Association of Orthodontists


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