There’s no denying that orthodontic braces aren’t a ton of fun — for kids, of course, but for their parents’ wallets, too. But even less fun is the possibility of having them in longer or needing to get braces a second time, both of which can be avoided by taking proper care of braces and the teeth they’re on.
Caring for orthodontics comes down to three strategies: what you eat, how you clean, and staying cautious.
What You Eat
Keeping an eye on what we eat is always a good idea — especially when thinking about our teeth — but it’s especially true when braces are a factor. And while the list of things your child shouldn’t eat while they have braces is a bit longer, the good news is that it’s only temporary!
Your child’s orthodontist will provide a complete list of foods to avoid, all of which can cause damage to the braces themselves or otherwise interfere with their function. The list will include:
- Chewy foods — bagels, hard rolls, sweets, jerky
- Crunchy foods — popcorn, chips, ice
- Sticky foods — caramel candies, chewing gum
- Hard foods — nuts, seeds, hard candies
- Foods that require biting into — corn on the cob, apples and other hard fruits, meat on the bone
On the other hand, there are plenty of foods that are safe to eat with braces. When in doubt, softer foods are always better. Your child can still enjoy:
- Breads and grains— soft tortillas, pancakes, pasta, rice
- Dairy — soft cheese, pudding, yogurt
- Meats and seafood — soft cooked chicken, lunch meats, tuna, salmon
- Vegetables — fibrous vegetables might get stuck in the braces, so be mindful of which vegetables they eat
- Fruits — soft fruits like bananas, fruit juices,
- Treats — ice cream without nuts, milkshakes, soft cake
How You Clean
Keeping braces clean requires some extra work, but it’s worth it! When your child’s teeth and braces stay clean, visits to the dentist and orthodontist are much easier, and the extra efforts shouldn’t be too difficult to keep up once they become part of your child’s routine. Ideally, your child should brush and floss after every meal and snack — food stuck in braces can get nasty quick — but we understand that isn’t always possible. Your child should be brushing at least twice a day, following these four steps:
- Rinse with water.
Braces provide lots of nooks and crannies for food to get stuck in, and rinsing with water goes a long way when it comes to getting the gunk out. Pro tip: let your child know that when they rinse regularly with water, it makes flossing much easier.
- Take out removables, then floss and/or use an oral irrigator.
If your child’s orthodontics require elastics or other removable pieces, take them out before flossing and brushing. Flossing can be a little tricky with braces, but in time, your child will become a pro. Important: make sure your child knows not to pull on the floss when it is under a wire, as it could damage or break the wire.
Using an oral irrigator is another excellent tool for cleaning all the hard-to-reach places between teeth and around braces — we might be a little biased, but we think our own BURST Water Flosser with the Ortho Tip is perfect for the task.
- Brush thoroughly.
Have your child use their preferred fluoride toothpaste and a soft-bristled brush. They should brush as they would normally, holding the brush at a 45-degree angle and making sure to clean the area where the teeth and gums meet. They should pay special attention to the areas above and below the bracket, working to brush away any leftover gunk before moving on to the backside of the teeth. Brushing for the full two minutes is very important — electric toothbrushes (like our own BURST Sonic Toothbrush) take care of keeping time so that your child can focus on brushing technique.
- Check the grin.
Stubborn food particles might outlast even the most diligent technique, which is why it’s important that your child give their smile a once-over in the mirror before (optionally) rinsing with mouthwash and finishing up. It’s also a good time to make sure nothing funky is going on with the braces themselves: no loose or protruding wires, for example.
Ask any parent, and you’ll hear about a time when they “turned around for one second” and their child managed to get themselves into an extraordinary situation — most of the time, there’s an owie at the end of the story. Braces are delicate things, and despite our children’s best intentions and efforts, things might happen that damage the braces, which can be uncomfortable or require orthodontic repair.
You can fix some of the common issues that come up with braces, but it is always wise to call your child’s orthodontist when something breaks, especially if you aren’t sure how to fix it.
- Loose or poking wires: Push a protruding wire away from the sensitive area with an eraser. If the wire can’t be pushed or is still causing irritation, check with your child’s orthodontist.
- Loose brackets: If a bracket comes away from the tooth, use a tweezer to reposition the bracket and gently push it back into place, applying a small amount of orthodontic wax to keep it in place, if needed.
We hope these tips help you and your child! As tough as it might be, remind them that the better they care for their braces, the quicker they’ll be done with braces all together. Good luck!