Flossing is an important part of keeping your teeth clean and looking good. When you have braces, it can be doubly, triply hard to floss.
The biggest points about flossing when you have braces is to take your time, do it right, and do it consistently. There are many programs and products to help you floss well while your braces are in. Some are free, some are very low cost, and others are expensive. Whether they will work for you or not will be the biggest factor.
An expensive toothbrush that you use consistently and that works is a much better investment in your teeth than choosing a cheap brush and risking your teeth being discolored and damaged later on.
Flossing With Braces: Misconceptions
- Flossing quick is still flossing
This isn’t quite true. Flossing quick is better than not flossing at all, but it will still leave behind food particles and other buildup that can lead to cavities, tooth decay, discolored teeth, and other dental problems.
When you have braces taking your time and making sure every grove is cleaned is very important. Over time, you’ll develop habits and techniques that will save you time flossing, but the care and thoroughness must be maintained.
- Braces will leave behind white marks on teeth
It’s actually the opposite. The braces will stop food and drinks from touching certain parts of your teeth. They keep that part of your teeth cleaner. The food is discoloring the rest of your teeth.
Proper brushing and floss will help remove the food particles and help reduce the staining. Then, once you have your braces removed, your clean, brushed teeth will match the parts of your teeth that were hidden behind the braces.
- Flossing should be done after brushing
In truth, it doesn’t matter. Some dentists will tell you to floss before, some will tell you to floss after. You should listen to your dentist. While it doesn’t matter for people without braces when they floss, there are certain types of braces and conditions that may require you to brush before or after. Your dentist is letting you know what will work best for your braces.
If it doesn’t matter to your dentist, floss when you are best able to remember it.
- Sometimes, teeth are too close together to floss
While it is true some teeth are too close together for standard floss, there
- Floss is floss
Like before, there are different sizes of floss and different types of floss. The standard waxed floss you find in the stores should be fine for most people. If not, talk to your dentist to see what he or she recommends.
- String floss is the only floss to use
String floss is often the most convenient, but it’s not the only floss. A floss toothpick *, a waterpick *, or electric toothbrush are all good substitutes for dental floss. There is also special braces floss, which is heavier and stiffer than regular floss, available, but you need to watch your source. Several overseas producers make cheap knockoffs and can rip you off. Talk to your dentist about which one will work the best for you.
- Bleeding Gums is a bad sign
Bleeding gums is a sign of injury or gum disease. If your gums bleed regularly, you should see your dentist to rule out more serious gum problems.
If your gums bleed just occasionally or in random places, it’s a better sign you injured your gums with the floss. Our gums are very sensitive mucous membranes that have blood vessels very close to the surface. It does not take much to damage them. If you find you are bleeding because of the floss, talk to your dentist about learning a better technique. Repeated injuries to your gums can result in damage to your teeth and/or pain.
How Long To Floss Teeth With Braces
This will depend on the person. Each crevice between your teeth and your gums needs its own, individual attention. For some people, they can floss out their mouths in a few minutes. For others, it may take as much as 15 minutes.
There are tools to help you floss quicker and easier, so talk to your dentist to see what would work best for you.
Types of Floss For Braces
There are many different types of floss. Their main job is to remove food particles from between teeth.
Floss/Tape – waxed, unwaxed, supersized, polytetrafluoro-ethylene
- Each has a different size and strength
- Comes loose as string
- Waxed floss is the most common in stores
- A floss holder makes it easier to hold the floss
- A floss needle makes threading between braces easier
- Used to pick food from between teeth
- Comes in many shapes and sizes
- Not recommended for daily use
- Typical wooden toothpick at restaurants is most common
- Accessory to toothbrushes
- Massages gums
- Dislodges larger food particles
- Not a substitute for flossing
- Small spiral brushes for gaps between widely separated teeth or around braces
- Motorized units that use a pulsating stream of water to clean
- Most often used at dental offices
Products To Help You Brush & Floss Consistently
We’re not going to review any individual product here. There are hundreds of different toothbrushes, both electronic and manual, flossers, waterpicks, ultrasound picks, and other crazier designs.
We recommend you talk to your dentist about options for your particular braces. Many products work well for everyone, but some may not work for you. Before you spend the money, make sure it’s something you can use and that you will use.
Cleaning The Wires With Braces
Cleaning the wires between your braces is a hard task. There is very little brace against and if you push too hard, you’ll break the wire, or worse, adjust the brace.
The wires of your braces should be cleaned every time you brush. Food particles on your wires could migrate to your teeth and cause problems.
One of the best tools for this is a floss threader or a floss needle *. Basically, this is a tool you use to mimic sewing between your teeth and wires. The floss goes in one end and you use the need to guide it through the spaces between your teeth and wires. Then, you can floss as normal.
Interproximal brushes * are another tool to get between teeth and wires. It’s a tiny, spiral brush that is designed to get in the small areas. It won’t fit between tightly pressed teeth, but it will get in near the gums and around your wires.
There are several sizes of interproximal brushes for different spaces and you may need several to get everywhere. You will also need to clean and sterilize these often, as food bit can get stuck in the bristles.
Dentists often recommend using interproximal brushes before you brush, while floss can be used either before or after.
Flossing: Step By Step
First, you should rinse your mouth out with water to flush any loose piece of food from your mouth. This can be as simple as finishing a drink at the table or rinsing at the sink.
Every time you eat you should brush your teeth. Skipping a brushing could lead to problems in the future. In you can’t, keeping a small container of mouthwash handy can be a stop-gap measure.
We often floss after brushing, so that is what we are going to cover. If you choose, simply floss before.
If you use interproximal brushes, carefully go in between each tooth and wire to make sure you clean all the area. The goal for the brushes is to loosen and remove larger bits of food. Spend time to get this part right.
Next, brush. Use a pencil-tip-sized drop of toothpaste your dentist recommends * (most people use too much) on a brush specifically designed for braces. While all toothbrushes will work, you will receive greater results by using a brush designed for braces. This type of brush has a V shape cut from the middle to accommodate the braces.
Brush each tooth along all the surfaces. Remember, each tooth has a top, back, front, 2 sides, and now has a top, bottom and 2 sides to the braces. You should spend 2 minutes brushing your teeth, or about 4 seconds per tooth. Spend extra time on the very last teeth where food can collect between the tooth and gum.
Flossing. Most people do not floss correctly according the American Dental Association. In order to floss properly, you need to pass the floss between your teeth into the void space between the teeth and gums. Once in that area, you should be wrapping the floss around the base of each tooth and scraping the floss away from the gum.
For the top, easy to access parts of your teeth, saw the floss in between the teeth down to the point where you are no long able to continue. Use the same sawing motion to remove the floss.
For the spaces between your teeth and gums and between your wires and teeth, use a stiff floss or a floss threader. Thread the floss into the void area. Then scrape the floss along the tooth and wire. In this space, a sawing motion is not needed.
After each space is cleaned, rinse with water or a mouthwash *.
Apps To Help You Brush & Floss
There are hundreds of free and paid apps out there to help you brush your teeth and floss. Some of them are timers and some of them are direction givers. Others are reminders and checklists to makes sure things get done.
Toothsavers is a free app for kids to help remind them to brush and floss. It’s set up like a game where they win prizes for brushing consistently.
Using the apps should mean you are actually brushing and flossing, not just clicking the buttons.
Disney’s Magic Timer is a partnership with Oral B that uses a timer and fun pictures to help kids time out how long they should brush. The app is free with the Oral B purchase.
Colgate’s ToothFairy is an app for parents to help remind them of a brushing schedule. It also tracks dental appointments, pictures of lost teeth, and has the ability to share on social media.
Dental Phobia (currently not available) is an adult app to help remind you to brush and get to the dentist. It’s designed for people who are wary of the dentist by providing helpful hints and coping mechanisms.
BrushDJApp provides oral hygiene reminders and a large selection of 2 minute music so you know how long to brush.
Braces are a difficult and lengthy ordeal. You are required to take care of your teeth more than what most people are used to. There are many special techniques and methods you need to use that others don’t.
Using some of the products we mentioned here may make the time easier and help reduce the time you are spending at the sink. Just be sure of any product you use will actually be used to increase your compliance with brushing times and methods. A product or app you don’t use is just a waste of money!
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