How to Take Care of Your Teeth After Braces
Taking proper care of your teeth after braces is important if you want to get the best outcome from your orthodontic treatment, a great smile to be proud of. With post-orthodontic dental care and a regular routine of oral healthcare at home, you can keep your teeth healthy and straight for the rest of your life. Even if you brushed and flossed diligently while wearing braces, it’s difficult to avoid an accumulation of plaque on your teeth, which can harden into tartar – impossible to remove without professional help.
Get a Professional Cleaning
Immediately after your braces come off is the ideal time for a professional cleaning to start your braces-free life with gleaming, stain-free teeth that are now in their proper position. Because cleaning your teeth while wearing braces is so tricky, stains are almost inevitable. Many people who’re excited about seeing their perfectly straight teeth after braces are disappointed to find they’ve become yellow or stained.
Besides a thorough cleaning, this could be a good time to think about professional whitening. In-office teeth whitening is quicker and more effective than over-the-counter products like whitening toothpastes and bleaching agents. A single professional tooth whitening treatment usually takes less than an hour and avoids the need for repeat applications of messy, store-bought whitening products.
Why Retainers Are So Important
A major challenge after wearing braces is ensuring your teeth remain in the correct position. This is where retainers – a thin wire across the upper or lower front teeth, play a crucial role. Without retainers, your teeth will tend to move back to their original misalignment, and the biggest risk of this is during the first few weeks and months after your braces come off.
While you were wearing braces, they exerted pressure on your teeth to push them into their new position. Because your teeth are anchored to your jaw bones, moving the teeth requires the bone of one side to soften or disappear (resorption). In other words, if a tooth is being moved backwards, the bone on the back of the tooth would resorb. New bone forms around the tooth to secure it in its new position. This process can take up to a year, during which retainers are needed to help maintain stability.
Our orthodontist, Dr. Amy Buchler, will make your retainers by taking impressions of your teeth as soon as your braces are removed. Generally, patients who have had braces will need to wear a fixed or removable retainer for the same length of time they had braces. Usually, retainers are initially worn all the time but then just at night. They should be cleaned at least once a day to remove bacteria. Many types of retainers can be cleaned with standard toothpaste and a toothbrush. With others, you may need to use a denture cleaner or mouthwash. If you’re unsure about this, ask Dr. Buchler for advice.
After around 12 months of wearing your retainers constantly, your Waterbury orthodontist may advise you to continue wearing them three to five times a week for the rest of your life to guarantee your teeth stay in position. Continued use of retainers is recommended because the teeth slowly shift inward and forward as we get older. Retainers will need to be replaced every two to ten years, depending on the type and how well you look after them. Most retainers can be removed for meals. Don’t just wrap them in a napkin, which can easily result in them getting thrown away by accident. Instead, use a retainer case, which is also more hygienic.
Gum Recession and Jaw Problems after Braces
Braces can cause complications, even years after they come off. These problems include gum recession and TMJ (temporomandibular joint disorders). Gum recession occurs when the tissue around teeth wears away or becomes pushed back, in some cases exposing tooth roots. People who have worn braces are far more susceptible to receding gums.
You can minimize the risks by:
- Using a toothbrush with soft bristles (electric brushes are gentler on gums).
- Avoid clenching or grinding your teeth.
- Wear your retainer as directed by your orthodontist in Waterbury.
Braces exert pressure that can put stress on the jaw joint and muscles. Indications of TMJ include:
- Difficulty chewing food.
- Clicking of the jaw.
To lessen the chances of TMJ developing after braces, you can:
- Try to keep your facial muscles relaxed.
- Avoid chewy foods.
- Wear your retainers as directed.
If you’re worried about TMJ, ask your Waterbury orthodontist about dental splints – retainer-like devices that are worn at night to hold the lower jaw in proper position.
Daily Oral Health Routine after Braces
Your braces represented a big investment in your teeth. Now that your teeth are straight, a good routine of daily oral healthcare will help to maintain your amazing smile.
- Brush at least twice a day. Change your toothbrush every three or four months, or when the bristles start to fray.
- Floss daily to get rid of plaque and bits of food that the toothbrush can’t reach. Make sure you floss each space between teeth.
- Use an antibacterial mouthwash to boost your oral health.
- Get into the habit of cleaning your retainers at least once a day.
- Rinse your mouth with water after eating anything sugary or drinks like coffee that can stain your teeth.
Carry on Smiling!
If you’ve just had your braces taken off, you’re at the end of a long process that has probably been challenging at times. Learning how to take care of your teeth after braces is just as important as oral hygiene when wearing them. Proper care of your teeth is particularly critical during the first couple of months after removal of braces. The last thing you want is to see your teeth moving back out of their proper alignment after months of wearing your braces. At OMG Smiles in Waterbury, our experienced orthodontist and team will be able to give you further advice on how to make sure you keep the bright, healthy smile your braces gave you. Contact us today to learn more about affordable braces and what we can do to help you gain that perfect smile!