In the long run, braces will straighten your teeth, enhance your smile, and improve your overall oral health. But during the 18-24 months that you’re wearing your braces, you may encounter some daily challenges, especially when it comes to cleaning.

Usually, your dentist will recommend that you brush your teeth at least twice a day. But if you’re one of the four million Americans wearing braces today, you might need to take some extra steps to keep your teeth clean, clear, and healthy.

Keep Brushing

Brushing your teeth at least twice a day is essential to keeping your teeth clean, especially while you’re wearing braces. You should:

  • Brush the front of your teeth, even though this is where your braces are likely anchored. Be sure to clear away debris, plaque, and buildup. Try gently brushing above the brackets and below the brackets using a back and forth motion. This allows the bristles to get close to the teeth without becoming entwined in the braces.
  • Brush the back of your teeth as well. Use circular motions to dislodge and remove plaque and buildup.

Those who do not brush regularly may find that the buildup of plaque and debris can stain the teeth or cause inflammation.

Floss with Care

It’s true, flossing around your braces can seem like a proper challenge. There are a couple of options:

  • You can thread the floss between your teeth above the brackets and arch wires of your braces. This might take some practice at first. However, once you get used to the process, flossing in this manner will quickly become second nature.
  • You can also try using a dental pick to clear out the space between your teeth. This will especially help you clear out debris that could be lodged in any gaps between your teeth.
  • Your third option is to try using a water floss system. This is the method most highly recommended by dentists and orthodontists. An electric device blasts a very narrow stream of water into your mouth, effectively removing debris and buildup from between your teeth. The most noticeable downside of this system is the somewhat substantial cost investment–but it’s an investment that usually pays off in the long run.

Use a Bit of Mouthwash

Even if you brush well and floss thoroughly, there may still be areas of your mouth that become difficult to reach, in part due to your braces. That’s why orthodontists and dentists will typically recommend that you add mouthwash to your daily brushing routine.

There are several types of mouthwash available. An antibacterial mouthwash is an excellent choice to promote oral hygiene. A vigorous 30-second mouthwash rinse can be an immense help in controlling the bacteria buildup in your mouth.

Take Extra Care

There are several other steps you can take to keep your teeth clean while you have braces. Avoiding the foods most likely to gunk up your braces can help you prevent messes altogether. Gargling salt water can help you manage some discomfort or inflammation that braces may cause. And changing out your toothbrush at regular intervals can help improve your results.

Clean Teeth Are Essential to Effective Braces

In many ways, these tips don’t diverge all that significantly from other good dental hygiene instructions. Brush regularly, floss, and use mouthwash. If you wear braces, you may encounter some specific challenges–especially when it comes to flossing–but nothing that can’t be overcome by good technique.

Keeping your teeth clean while wearing braces, however, does take a certain commitment. The better you keep up with your dental hygiene, the brighter your smile will shine when it’s time to take those braces off.