Navigating Life with Braces

Girl with braces at school

Getting braces is a big step, and the first one on your journey toward a new smile, but it’s only the beginning. Your final result will depend in part on how you maintain your teeth and your braces between your first and last appointment. Depending on the state of your teeth when you start, that can be quite a while. One of the most common questions new patients ask is how long you keep your braces. The typical timeframe is between 18 and 24 months, but there is some fluidity from patient to patient.

Now that you have your braces, it’s important for you to know how to properly take care of them throughout your entire orthodontic treatment. If you have any questions about maintenance and care, don’t hesitate to ask a member of your Families First Pediatrics care team. Adjusting to life with braces can be a challenge, but it’s one you can overcome as long as you know the basics.

Eating with Braces

One of the most immediate challenges when wearing new braces is figuring out how to eat. You’re likely to have a little bit of pain initially, which may make eating some foods difficult. More importantly, there’s a bunch of new hardware in your mouth that you have to consider while eating. Don’t worry, you’ll be eating popcorn and snacking on potato chips again in no time! However, before you can start enjoying some of the treats you love, you will need to take special care to avoid any foods that could damage your new appliances.
Foods to Avoid with New Braces:
  • Chewy foods — bagels, licorice
  • Crunchy foods — popcorn, ice
  • Sticky foods — caramel candies, popsicles, chewing gum
  • Hard foods — nuts, hard candies
  • Foods that require a firm bite— corn on the cob, apples, carrots
Foods You can Easily Eat with Braces:
  • Dairy — soft cheese, pudding, milk-based drinks
  • Breads — soft tortillas, pancakes, muffins without nuts
  • Grains — pasta, soft cooked rice
  • Meats/poultry — soft cooked chicken, meatballs, lunch meats
  • Seafood — tuna, salmon, crab cakes
  • Vegetables — mashed potatoes, steamed spinach, beans
  • Fruits — applesauce, bananas, fruit juice
  • Treats — ice cream without nuts, milkshakes, Jell-O, soft cake
It’s particularly important to avoid potentially challenging foods at the beginning of your treatment, when you’re still learning how to live with your orthodontic appliance. The goal is to enjoy the foods you love without damaging your braces or your teeth—or causing unnecessary discomfort. Use common sense, and avoid jawbreakers.

Soreness Caused from Braces and Appliances

When you first get your braces, you may notice that your teeth and mouth feel a little tender or sore. This is perfectly normal and we promise your mouth will not be sore forever! To relieve the pain, we recommend dissolving one teaspoon of salt in eight ounces of lukewarm water. Swish and gargle this solution in your mouth for just a couple of minutes (do not swallow the saltwater).

If the pain is more severe and does not go away after rinsing, you can also try taking a pain reliever. It’s also not uncommon for your lips, cheeks, and tongue to become irritated for one to two weeks as they toughen and become used to the braces. We’d be happy to give you some wax that you can put over the braces to lessen the tenderness. If you need some wax, please let us know.

Some patients also report mild soreness for a few days after adjustments, when new wires or bands are added. That soreness, while unpleasant, is a good sign that your braces are doing their job. What you’re feeling is the appliance coaxing your teeth toward their new placement. Generally speaking, the pain isn’t severe and subsides after a couple days.

Loose Teeth

If your teeth begin feeling a little loose, don’t worry; this is normal! Once again, this is a sign that your orthodontic treatment is progressing just as expected. Remember that the whole point of braces is to move your teeth from their current positions and into a new places.

You can think of it like straightening a crooked fence post in your backyard. First you have to loosen the dirt around it in order to reposition, then you pour in a little instant concrete, tamp it down with dirt, and you’re done. Braces are doing something very similar inside your mouth. As your appliance applies pressure to your teeth, they loosen from their usual position and it’s possible to feel that loosening.

You don’t need to worry, though. Once your teeth have been repositioned, the supporting bone will cement itself around the tooth again. Then your gums will tamp that tooth in place, and it will no longer be loose.

Loose Wires and Bands

If everything goes according to plan, the brackets, wires, and bands of your braces should remain in place. However, in the ordinary course of life, things are bound to break. Your braces are no exception. We use industry standard materials with a proven history of efficacy, but accidents happen. Wires can break, elastics can snap, and the dental cement holding your brackets in place can fail. Fortunately, it’s usually not a cause for concern.

Usually, a broken bracket or a snapped elastic isn’t a huge concern. Missing a single bracket for a week or two won’t significantly impact your overall treatment. However, if you break a wire, bracket, or band please contact us as soon as possible so that we can check and repair your appliance, if necessary. If any piece of your appliance comes off, be sure to save it and bring it to the office with you.

You can temporarily fix the loose wire by using the back of a spoon or the eraser end of a pencil to carefully and gently push the wire back into place. If the loose wire is causing irritation to your lips or cheeks, put wax or a wet cotton ball over the broken wire to protect the inside of your mouth and relieve the pain.

Playing Sports with Braces

Game, Set, Match — we have great news for athletes! You can still play sports even while undergoing orthodontic treatment! If you do play sports, we recommend that you wear a mouthguard to protect your teeth and your appliance. Let your doctor know if you need help finding the right mouthguard for the best protection.

In case of a sports emergency, be sure to immediately check your mouth and appliance for damage. If you notice any loose teeth or appliance damage, please contact our office right away. You can temporarily relieve the discomfort by applying wax or rinsing your mouth with warm saltwater.

Brushing and Flossing

With all this talk about maintaining your orthodontic appliance, we haven’t talked much about taking care of your teeth. Brushing at least twice a day and flossing at least once a day are an important part of everyone’s regular dental routine, but they become especially important once you have braces.

Adding appliances to your teeth changes the environment of your mouth and makes dental care more important than ever. Failure to brush consistently can cause uneven staining, leaving marks on your teeth where the brackets are. Moreover, the brackets, wires, and bands can easily trap food, fostering harmful bacteria inside your mouth.

When brushing, pay special attention to the top and bottom of the brackets. Angle your toothbrush to get into the nooks and crannies above and beneath the brackets. If you’re unsure how to brush properly with braces, don’t hesitate to ask your orthodontic team for a demonstration. Flossing is also important, but can be difficult with wires in the way. Fortunately, there are a number of tools available off the shelf, including specialized flossers for use with braces. Finally, don’t forget your regular twice-yearly checkup with your dentist to keep your overall oral health in check. At many of our offices, you can schedule your dental visit back-to-back with your Orthodontic adjustment.

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