Orthodontic treatment is a milestone for many kids and can help them attain a healthy, aligned smile in the future. Because it is also a costly investment, it’s important that kids with braces learn how to care for their teeth and gums throughout their treatment. Many are surprised to learn that braces can be a contributing factor in the development of gingivitis, an early stage of gum disease, that affects up to 50% of children and adolescents.
With brackets and wires, there are many more corners and crevices for food and plaque to accumulate. This unfortunately increases the risk of tooth decay and gum problems. Orthodontists typically provide detailed dental care instruction to young patients and their caregivers. However, extra effort is necessary throughout treatment to maintain healthy teeth and gums. For those who do get into the habit of meticulous dental care, they will not only be rewarded with straight teeth, but also with healthy gums.
Daily Dental Care with Braces
It’s important to stress to children with braces that it’s necessary to pay special attention to teeth and gums, as well as the brackets and wires. Fluoride toothpaste should be used with a toothbrush at a 45- degree angle against the gums. Hard-bristled, nylon brush should be avoided because they can damage fragile gum tissue and tooth enamel.
Gingivitis is common during orthodontic treatment because it can be difficult to remove food and plaque. This is why extra care is necessary with cleaning. Kid with braces should be encouraged to spend about 10 seconds brushing each tooth, gently brushing along the gum line where the gums and teeth meet, using a circular motion. It’s important to brush both the inside and the outside surfaces of the teeth.
Tooth enamel is particular vulnerable throughout orthodontic treatment. Orthodontists typically recommend that their patients avoid acidic food and drinks that can damage enamel. These include soft drinks, fruit juice, pineapples, oranges, pickles, vinaigrette dressings and salsas. Starchy foods, such as potato chips, can also stick to teeth and cause tooth decay and erosion of enamel.
Along with reducing intake of acidic food and drinks, it’s also important to avoid certain foods that can break or loosen orthodontic wires and bands. These include nuts, hard cookies and candy, apples and carrots. Likewise, sticky foods should be avoided, such as toffee, caramel, fruit bars and gum. Habits such as pencil chewing, nail biting, and tongue thrusting can also be potentially damaging.
It’s a simple fact that additional dental care is needed during orthodontic treatment, and this can be challenging for kids who are not enthusiastic about dental care. However, parents can help by not only encouraging good brushing techniques, but also providing the necessary tools for brushing and flossing.