How Can I Prevent Tooth and Gum Issues While Wearing Braces?

Even kids who maintain diligent oral hygiene may need to adapt their routine when wearing braces. Today, our team at Ivy City Pediatric and Orthodontics will tackle this question: How can I prevent tooth and gum issues while wearing braces?

How Braces Work

Traditional metal and clear braces have components that patients should know about in order to effectively care for them.

  1. Brackets are square-shaped attachments affixed to the front of each tooth, functioning as anchors for wires.
  2. Wires connect the brackets, exerting pressure on the teeth to facilitate alignment. These wires are regularly adjusted during treatment.
  3. Elastics may be affixed to the brackets to provide supplementary force to specific teeth.
  4. Bands serve a similar purpose to elastics, providing additional support to the entire orthodontic apparatus.

Potential Issues: Teeth

Braces can lead to various oral health issues, often associated with the different components of the braces themselves.

  1. Decalcification: This occurs when minerals are depleted from the enamel, resulting in the appearance of white spots or patches on the tooth surface. It becomes a concern when plaque accumulates around the brackets and is not effectively removed. Typically, these white spots become noticeable only after the braces are removed from your child’s teeth.
  2. Tooth Decay:  Braces can present challenges in maintaining thorough teeth cleaning, thus heightening the risk of decay.
  3. Root Resorption: Pressure applied during treatment may cause the roots of teeth to shorten. While mild root resorption is common and generally not concerning, severe cases can lead to tooth instability.
  4. Enamel Erosion: Excessive force or pressure exerted by braces can potentially lead to enamel erosion, especially if brackets are misaligned or if there are problems with the bite.
How Can I Prevent Tooth and Gum Issues While Wearing Braces?

How to Help

The great news is that many of these issues can be addressed, though prevention is always the preferred approach!

  1. Excellent Oral Hygiene: This is vital for preventing most problems. Brushing teeth diligently after every meal and snack, as well as before bedtime. We recommend fluoride toothpaste and a soft-bristled toothbrush to thoroughly clean around brackets and wires. This ingredient strengthens enamel and helps prevent tooth decay.
  2. Attend Regular Dental Appointments: Collaboration with dentists is essential to our job. If you have a pediatric dentist outside of our own office (it’s part of our job!), don’t miss appointments! They provide additional oversight over oral health, offer professional cleanings, and can help address any emerging issues.
  3. Follow Dietary Guidelines: Consumption of sugary and acidic foods and beverages needs to be heavily moderated. Hard, sticky, or crunchy foods can also damage braces or become stuck between brackets.
  4. Orthodontic Wax: This substance alleviates discomfort caused by rogue sharp edges of wires or brackets, which often irritate teeth and gums.
  5. Mouthguards: If your child or teen practices sports or other activities where facial injuries are common, wearing a mouthguard is crucial.

Potential Issues: Gums

It’s common for both kids and adults to underestimate the vulnerability of their gums. Preserving the health of teeth and gums requires a joint effort. Here are several potential gum-related issues one may encounter while wearing braces:

  1. Gingivitis: This condition involves inflammation of the gums due to the accumulation of plaque along the gumline. Symptoms may include redness, swelling, or bleeding gums.
  2. Gum Recession: Gum tissue may recede, exposing the roots of the teeth. Excessive force during orthodontic treatment or insufficient gum tissue support around the teeth can contribute to this issue.
  3. Gum Irritation: Contact with braces can lead to abrasions on the gums, lips, and cheeks, potentially resulting in ulcers, sore spots, or cuts on the oral tissue.

A lot of these issues are helped by the same methods used to remedy tooth problems:

  • Make sure to advise your child to brush both their teeth and gums, giving special attention to flossing as well.
  • Include antimicrobial mouthwash in their routine to reduce plaque and bacteria in their mouth.
  • If your child is ever reporting persistent or unusual discomfort, be sure to contact us right away so you can see Dr. JC.
How Can I Prevent Tooth and Gum Issues While Wearing Braces?

Answers You Can Trust

When it comes to orthodontics for pediatric patients, the greatest challenge can simply be complying with these guidelines. As a team, we want to support parents and guardians in this journey to make sure these obstacles can be overcome. We’re always available if you have specific questions pertaining to your child. If you’re interested in a free consultation, give our Washington, DC office a call at 202-953-0171.