How to care for your braces at home
In the middle of straightening your teeth?
The sudden arrival of Covid-19 and moving through the different levels have thrown us all some unexpected challenges. Like you, your orthodontist knows that successful orthodontic treatment requires regular visits to the practice. You might be feeling anxious about not getting to visit your orthodontist like you normally would. Don’t panic. Whilst your visits are scheduled for maximum efficiency, these unplanned delays should not have a significant impact on your final outcome.
We’ve compiled a list of advice and some useful tips in case you encounter any of the more common issues that can occur during treatment.
It’s important for you to take the best care possible of your diet, your braces, and your overall oral health, to limit the chances of any problems occurring.
With the right home care, and advice from your orthodontist when required, you can look after your braces or aligners yourself until your next orthodontist visit.
How to minimise the risk of damage to your braces
To reduce the risk of damaging your braces, try to stick to the advice you were given at the start of your treatment regarding cleaning and taking care of your braces.
Here are some key points to remember:
- The gentler you can be, the fewer problems you are likely to have
- Avoid eating hard and sticky foods
- Keep your teeth clean by following a thorough oral care routine at home – keeping your teeth clean and healthy will also help ensure you get the best possible result
- Brush your teeth at least twice a day for two minutes each time
- Floss daily and make sure you use any additional cleaning brushes you may have been given
You can find out about some of the more common orthodontic concerns and questions in the FAQ section below.
If you’ve read these FAQs and you’re still concerned, or you want to discuss your treatment with someone, please contact your orthodontist and they can advise you on the most appropriate action. Your orthodontist is here to help.
What if one of my brackets comes off?
Brackets are the small squares which are stuck to your teeth. If one of your brackets becomes loose, please don’t worry. The bracket will usually detach from the tooth but will still be attached to the wire. You can place a small amount of orthodontic wax on the bracket to secure it and cover any sharp edges. If you cannot find your orthodontic wax, you can use some of the wax that comes on some cheese or a piece of well-chewed sugar-free gum.
What if an O-Ring comes off?
With some braces, small coloured elastics rings attach the wire to the brackets on your teeth. They can come loose if you eat something hard or sticky which snags on the O-Ring or causes the wire to flex excessively. If you lose an O-Ring, in most cases, nothing will happen. Sometimes a tooth will go a little crooked. We can address this later. If you are particularly dextrous, you could try using tweezers or two pieces of floss to attempt to replace the O-Ring, but again, don’t worry if you can’t.
What if a wire comes out of a tube on one of my back teeth?
Early in your treatment, the wires are very flexible. If you bite down on something hard, the wire can flex and pull out of the small tube on your back teeth. This can be annoying and can scratch the inside of your cheek. If this happens, you can try to replace it through the tube with tweezers or cover the end of the wire with some wax.
What if one of my wire ends protrudes?
As your teeth move some excess wire will often start to protrude at the back of your braces. A protruding wire end can be both annoying and uncomfortable.
Fortunately, there are a few things you can try at home to reduce this discomfort:
- Place some wax or sugar-free chewing gum around the protruding wire.
- Use a blunt instrument, like a teaspoon, to try to push the protruding wire-end towards the tooth– this can permanently bend the wire in, making it more comfortable. If too much force is used, you may inadvertently break your brace. As such, only attempt this if you have already tried using wax.
If you are desperate, and you feel confident to try something yourself, you could try using a clean cuticle cutter or a tough nail clipper to trim the end of the wire yourself. This will only work on thinner wires. In addition, not all clippers/cutters will work for this purpose and you are likely to damage them in the process. If you decide to try this, please take extra care not to swallow the cut piece of wire and remove it carefully from your mouth. Having someone support you with this can help.
What if a wire breaks?
Your orthodontic wires are very resilient. However, from time-to-time, one may break. This is generally caused by fatigue due to repeated bending or flexing of the wire. If a wire breaks it is unlikely to create significant issues. If the wire is protruding please follow the same instructions above, for when a wire end protrudes.
Should I keep wearing my elastic bands?
If you’re wearing any elastic bands, continue to do so as directed. However, should you have any concerns regarding the effect of the elastic bands- stop wearing them and contact your orthodontist.
What if I’ve run out of elastic bands or wax?
If you’re running low or run out of elastic bands or wax, please contact your orthodontic practice and they will be able to advise you what to do.
Should I keep wearing my aligners?
If you’re wearing aligners, continue to wear them as instructed to continue progressing your treatment. Remember to wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling your aligners. If you have no additional aligners, then reduce your last aligner wear to 10-12 hours per day to ensure that your teeth stay in position and make your aligners last longer. If your last aligner is beginning to breakdown please contact your orthodontic practice and they will be able to advise you what to do.
Should I keep wearing my retainer?
If you have retainers, please continue wearing your retainers as advised at your last appointment.
What if I have problems with my orthodontic plate?
If you wear plates, which cause significant pain and/or discomfort, you should stop wearing them and get in touch with you orthodontist.
What if I need more help or advice?
If you’ve tried to fix your braces and it hasn’t worked, or if you notice some unwanted/unusual tooth movements or have concerns about something strange happening to your bite or gums or you’re not sure what to do next, please contact your orthodontic practice and they will be able to advise you on the most appropriate action. If you are able to take some selfies of your teeth or a short movie that may be helpful to communicate your concern.
There are many useful YouTube clips offering tips, for example:
If you are having difficulty contacting your orthodontic provider, please contact the New Zealand Association of Orthodontists Executive Administrator at [email protected] or 09 442 1099 who will direct you to help.