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Common Braces Problems and How to Solve Them 

Young female presenting person with long blond hair smiling with braces

Orthodontic treatment is a rewarding experience that enables patients to improve their cosmetic appearances as well as dental health. Some new patients may be nervous about problems they will experience wearing braces. The good news is that, while certain problems might arise, they are easily treatable or preventable. 

Here are some of the most common issues patients report experiencing with braces, and how to ensure they don’t interfere with your orthodontic care. 

Hygiene 

If you are wearing traditional braces, the brackets, wires, and elastics make oral hygiene more difficult. Invisalign braces create pockets of moisture around the teeth that make them more susceptible to bacteria. However, it is still important to maintain excellent oral hygiene while you are receiving orthodontic treatment. Cavities or other dental issues resulting from negligent care can prolong your time in braces and cause you discomfort. 

In order to ensure that you don’t miss important areas while you brush, it is helpful to focus on one area of the mouth at a time. Your mouth has four quadrants, and you should spend at least 30 seconds dedicated to each. The division on each side is from your first central tooth to your last molar. Make sure to brush the tops, bottoms, and sides of your brackets as well. 

Flossing can be more of a challenge while wearing traditional braces. But that doesn’t mean you can skip it. Because a toothbrush cannot reach the plaque between your teeth, tooth decay and gum disease may develop in those areas. If you are having difficulty getting the floss under your wires, consider using a floss threader. This is a flexible piece of thin plastic with a large loop at the end that allows you to loop it up and under the wire. 

Other options for healthy oral hygiene that will help while you are wearing braces include a water flosser, an interdental brush, a gum stimulator, and a tongue scraper

Discomfort 

While it is true that braces can at times be uncomfortable, the majority of your treatment usually includes minimal or no pain. Your teeth are most likely to be sore after the orthodontist initially applies braces and for a few days after each adjustment. 

Applying a cold compress to the sides of your face can help numb it after an adjustment and even reduce swelling in the gums and tissues. Frozen treats like popsicles can help cool your mouth from the inside. 

Your orthodontist will provide a special type of wax after each adjustment. Applying this wax to the braces, teeth, and gums helps reduce friction between the appliance and your mouth, which eases the discomfort. You can apply the wax across your braces or on specific teeth that are acting up.

Another effective remedy is to prepare a warm salt water rinse. Salt has natural healing properties, as well as the capacity to limit bacterial growth. Add 1 teaspoon of salt to 1 cup of warm water and rinse thoroughly. Repeat this process every few hours until the discomfort subsides. 

Finally, a number of over-the-counter topical ointments can help alleviate pain after adjustments. These are typically anesthetics, such as Anbesol and Orajel, which numb the area they are applied to for a few hours.

Loose or Damaged Brackets and Wires 

Poking wires can be a sign that your teeth are moving as planned, but they also can cause small cuts in your mouth. Simply snip the ends of the wire that is causing trouble. You can do this yourself with a pair of disinfected nail clippers or schedule a technician appointment at your orthodontist’s office. 

Sometimes a wire can become completely dislodged or break. This does not constitute an emergency, but you need to call the orthodontist’s office right away to schedule an appointment to replace it. In the meantime, try to reposition the wire or move it to where it is comfortable. 

A broken bracket typically won’t set your progress off track. However, you should call the orthodontist’s office to see if it needs attention before your next regularly scheduled appointment. In the meantime, just leave the bracket where it is. If it’s uncomfortable, or if you have the temptation to play with it, cover it with wax. 

White Spots 

White spots are a very real threat to orthodontic patients. It is estimated that between 10 and 20 percent of people wearing traditional braces will develop them around and under the brackets. Though they are difficult to notice during treatment, they will become visible when the braces are removed. 

These spots result from bacteria that use the sugars in food to reproduce. They form acids as they multiply that erode calcium from the teeth in a process known as decalcification. Once the calcium is absent, the acids create thousands of microscopic holes in the enamel that give off the milky-white appearance that characterizes white spots. 

The best form of treatment for white spots is prevention. Your orthodontist will give you a comprehensive eating and cleaning plan to follow. It is designed to help make your time in braces as pleasant (and short) as possible, as well as to promote overall oral health. Following the plan as closely as possible will prevent white spots from forming.

Tooth Sensitivity 

Orthodontic adjustments cause your teeth to shift toward their desired placements, making them more sensitive than usual due to the pressure the braces place on them. The sensitivity should only last a few days after each adjustment. 

Desensitizing toothpaste can mask the symptoms during each adjustment phase. Oral rinses with fluoride and remineralization properties can complement desensitizing toothpaste. However, it is crucial to select options free of alcohol, which can exacerbate sensitivity. Also, try to avoid mint flavoring, which can trigger sensitivity in some people. 

The American Dental Association recommends using a soft-bristled toothbrush. Brushing too hard or using a hard-bristled brush can damage tooth enamel and gums. Do not brush forcefully or apply more pressure when using a soft-bristled brush, as this is harmful to gums and teeth. 

Food Stuck in Braces 

Food complaints are among the most common among patients wearing traditional braces. The brackets and wires have the propensity to trap food, which can be uncomfortable and unsightly. 

The best way to avoid complications surrounding food is to pay attention to the food restrictions your orthodontist provides–eschewing hard, sticky, and chewy meals and snacks. However, even green-lit foods can become stuck between, or wrapped around, your braces. You’ll need to carry a small toothbrush and some dental floss when you’re dining outside your home. 

Are you ready to take the next step toward improving your overall health and smile? Start by contacting us today to schedule a consultation with one of our board-certified orthodontists.

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