While braces provide proven long-term benefits to straightening teeth, there are important considerations when it comes to their impact on oral health and cleanliness. The hardware that comes with braces introduces a multitude of places in which food can be trapped, which if not cared for, can lead to increased bacteria and, in more extreme circumstances, a condition called hypertrophic gums.
“Hypertrophic gums means there is an excess growth in the gums,” explains Dr. Rashmi Bhatnagar of BellaVista Dental Care. “This occurs when the gum becomes inflamed as the result of increased plaque and bacteria, which are byproducts of poor dental hygiene.”
As a result of this increased bacteria and plaque, the gums create more tissue as a defense mechanism, which sometimes resolves on its own, and other times must be removed via laser.
To keep teeth clean for those who wear braces, Bhatnagar suggests no real change when it comes to brushing – that is – twice a day. Flossing, however, should be substantially increased to rid captured food in the braces.
“Most people with braces naturally take care of this since they feel the need to floss after eating because they can feel the food stuck in their teeth,” says Bhatnagar.
Another solution is to carry a proxy brush, a small handheld brush that can be carried in a pocket and used to scrape away debris. This is particularly useful for those on the go.
When it comes to rinsing, the answer isn’t as definitive. Some mouthwashes, such as Listerine, help to prevent gingivitis – a perk for those with braces. However, for young children, the brand can prove to potent. Other brands, such as ACT, work to prevent cavities, and could prove more effective for those wearing braces as a preventative measure for tooth decay.