The holidays provide many of us with an opportunity to relax and take time away from the daily grind. However, while you enjoy time with family and friends, as well as lots of your favorite foods, the importance of maintaining your oral hygiene cannot be stressed enough. Keeping your braces clean will minimize your chances of developing unsightly white spots around your brackets and will reduce the risk of cavities or gum irritation around the teeth, which could slow treatment rates.
If you or your child have been wearing braces for some time, the notion of being prepared probably has a familiar ring. But it truly is the most important factor in keeping up your dental hygiene when your normal routine will be disrupted. Try these simple, yet effective, strategies to come out of the season smiling.
Tips For Surviving The Holidays With Braces
It’s common, especially during festive gatherings, to eat a meal and follow it with dessert sometime later. If you are going to indulge in braces-friendly sweets, it’s actually better to do so with your main meal rather than after. Your mouth will be producing more saliva, which will help wash down the sugar.
Chewing on fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs is nature’s way of scrubbing your teeth. When possible, gravitate toward these healthier options that are also better for your teeth. The natural fibers in fruit combined with the saliva in your mouth help wash away food particles and bacteria.Vegetables like carrots, broccoli or cauliflower can help dislodge other food particles lingering in your mouth. Just make sure to eat these vegetables cooked or cut into small pieces to avoid any potential damage to your wires or brackets. Herbs such as cilantro, parsley and mint help decrease odors caused by a buildup of bacteria.
Because it’s the holiday season, it’s not realistic to expect orthodontic patients to stay on a fruit and veggie diet. Plenty of more sumptuous holiday foods are perfectly safe for braces. Soft meat, mashed potatoes, stuffing, pies, gingerbread, and a host of other holiday favorites remain on the table for those wearing braces. However there are a few holiday-specific foods you need to avoid if you are wearing braces. Those include:
- Candy canes
- Peppermint bark
- Crunchy cookies
- Pecan pie
- Peanut brittle
- Fruit cake
Some good news for cheese lovers is that this food offers a host of health benefits for your mouth. Cheese contains natural cavity-fighting agents, as well as calcium and phosphate, which strengthen teeth. The minerals found in cheese balance pH levels in the mouth, preserve tooth enamel, produce saliva, and kill bacteria that cause cavities and disease. If you are making a cheese and crackers spread, just make sure to select crackers that aren’t overly hard and crunchy.
Another tip for improving your dental hygiene is to keep a glass of water in hand as much as possible. Drinking plenty of water helps to clean the mouth and produce the saliva that protects your teeth from harmful bacteria. It also hydrates the gums and washes food particles away from the teeth.
Finally, it may seem quite unrelated to dental hygiene, but ensuring you are getting the appropriate amount of rest actually can influence your oral health. When you get a solid night’s sleep, your immune system is better able to do its job, and that includes protecting your mouth as well as your body.
Practice Proper Flossing And Brushing Techniques
When the orthodontist applies your braces, she will provide a detailed guide on how to care for your teeth and keep them clean. Here’s a quick review of the brushing and flossing basics that you will need to continue to employ all year round, especially during the holiday season.
Unfortunately, flossing can be more of a challenge while wearing braces. But that doesn’t mean you can skip it. Experts say that regular flossing is as essential as brushing. Too many people make the mistake of thinking their dental hygiene is “good enough” because they brush their teeth regularly. But because a toothbrush cannot reach the plaque between your teeth, tooth decay and gum disease may develop in those areas.
To floss properly, you will need a strand of floss that is at about a foot long. You want to try to not reuse any part of the strand, but if that is not possible make sure to rinse the floss thoroughly before re-applying it. Flossing with dirty floss simply spread bacteria and plaque to other teeth.
Carefully thread the floss under or over the main wire, and pull it through so there’s enough slack on either end to grab it. Wrap the floss around the ends of your fingertips so that a tight strand forms between them. Gently push the floss down into the crease between your teeth, then slide it down into the gap.
If you are having difficulty getting the floss under your wires, consider using a floss threader, which is a flexible piece of thin plastic with a large loop at the end. This utensil allows you to put your floss through the loop and pull the threader up and under the wire. Another option is a floss pick, which holds a small piece of floss together between two prongs. The handle of a floss pick also comes with bristles you can use to clean your brackets.
Your mouth has four quadrants, and your brushing should focus at least 30 seconds on each. The division on each side is from your first central tooth to your last molar. When brushers take the “all at once” approach, they are likely to miss key areas.
When you brush, hold your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle and just above the gum line. Brush the outer surfaces of your teeth and braces, remembering to scrub around each bracket and over its surfaces. Using the same angle, brush the backs of your teeth that face your mouth and throat. Pay most attention to brushing down at the gumline, as this is where most tartar builds. Brush the biting portions of your teeth as well.These are the tops of the teeth that you actually use to bite into food. For this area, use a more circular motion that reaches around to the back of the tooth to clean all of the biting surfaces.
Finally, you need to rinse your mouth after every brushing. This will flush away all the particles of debris that are now dislodged around your mouth. Most dentist recommended brushing your teeth twice per day. Depending on your situation and treatment plan, your orthodontist might recommend more frequent brushings over a 24-hour period.
Be Prepared If Traveling
Holiday vacations are the most common causes of temporary dental neglect. The good news is that it’s easy to prepare for time out of town. Just make sure you have an on-the-go braces survival kit that includes a travel toothbrush, fluoride toothpaste, floss, extra rubber bands, orthodontic wax, some over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication and a pair of tweezers (or other tool for dealing with loose appliances).
It’s also a good idea to plan what you would do in the event of a dental emergency. The only disadvantage of this time of year is that just about all dentist and orthodontist offices will be closed on major holidays and, often, the days surrounding them. But, stay calm, because most orthodontic emergencies can be temporarily mended at home until the next day that the office is open.
Poking wires can be trimmed with nail clippers. After trimming the wire back, place some wax over the end to alleviate discomfort. Broken brackets–though alarming–aren’t typically an emergency unless they are accompanied by serious tooth pain. If the bracket is still comfortable, leave it as it is. If it is causing discomfort, you can simply remove it from the wire and put some wax in its place. If a wire pops out, just see if you can guide it back into its place in the bracket with tweezers.
The holidays are a busy time of year, and it may be tempting to shorten or skip your daily routines. However, neglecting your oral hygiene can result in serious consequences that can delay your orthodontic treatment. It’s best to continue to follow a daily regimen of brushing, flossing, and avoiding foods that could damage your braces.