Few days are as exciting in a child or teen’s life than when their braces finally come off. The results of orthodontic treatment can be breathtaking – and well worth the effort to get there! But are there any steps you should take to maintain your oral health for dental care after braces come off? Yes – and they’re important!
Read on to learn six key tips for improving your dental care after your braces come off.
#1. Retainers Are Non-Negotiable
The first thing your orthodontist will tell you when your braces come off is about your retainer. It may seem like it undercuts the excitement of finally removing your braces, but there’s a reason they’re so important. If you don’t use your retainer, much of your progress, some of it earned over years of wearing braces, will be lost.
Retainers are the cornerstone of dental care after braces. They do just what the name says: they retain the improvements of your orthodontic treatment and keep your new smile from regressing back to the problems you previously had.
How long you need to wear your retainer to care for your teeth after braces depends greatly on your treatment. It can vary by months or years. Make sure you speak with your orthodontist if you have questions – they’ll make sure you’re clear on how long it’s necessary to continue wearing.
#2. Avoid Teeth Whitening for Now
In addition to the important health benefits to your tooth and jaw development, orthodontic treatment makes your smile look the way you’ve always wanted it to. So, it’s only natural to want to ensure your new smile is as clean and white as it could be.
However, teeth whitening, while generally benign for oral health, can be a bad idea when trying to maintain your dental care after your braces are gone. Orthodontic treatment will leave your teeth feeling sensitive as they settle into their new position. Similarly, teeth whitening also increases sensitivity.
If you start whitening your teeth immediately following the removal of your braces, you may encounter extreme pains when eating or drinking, even if the food or drink are close to room temperature!
Six months is the recommended timeframe to wait before starting a teeth whitening system after braces. This gives your teeth time to adjust and feel normal again.
While it’s common for teeth to have some discoloration following braces, it shouldn’t take long for saliva and brushing to help bring them back to one consistent, healthy look. One way you can avoid discoloration after your braces come off is to make sure not to skip brushing your teeth while you have braces!
#3. Brushing & Flossing Is Just as Important
Speaking of brushing, your regular dental care after braces shouldn’t change – assuming you were practicing good oral hygiene during your treatment! Twice daily brushing and flossing, for approximately two minutes, is necessary to avoid cavities, yellowing of the teeth and gum disease.
For some, orthodontic treatment can take years. It would be tragic to spend so much time improving your overall dental health only to begin a cycle of needing cavities cleaned out and filled due to poor care after your braces are removed.
Fortunately, if you’ve become an expert at brushing with braces, doing so without them will feel like a breeze. The entire process is much simpler than when you have an oral appliance, and your retainer can be removed for brief periods of time to allow you easy access to all the surfaces of your teeth.
#4. Eat Carefully
As your teeth readjust to life after braces, you may notice some increased sensitivity for upwards of a month or two after they’re removed. While foods don’t pose any unique risk to someone who completed orthodontic treatment versus anyone else, some foods can be uncomfortable to eat.
One way to avoid tooth pain during your dental care after braces is to simply moderate the foods or drinks you consume and avoid the ones which cause problems.
Foods or drinks at extreme temperatures are one of the most likely sources of pain. While some things, like hot drinks, can be allowed to cool off, it’s harder to avoid temperature issues with cold foods like ice cream. If they hurt to eat or drink, you’ll just need to wait it out. The sensitivity will subside before you know it!
However, due to the movement of your teeth, they can also be sensitive to hard pressure. Chewy or crunchy foods can cause as much pain as extreme temperatures. If you experience pain from these foods, know that it’s only temporary.
Your best course of action is to avoid these foods as much as possible. If it hurts to eat or drink, try again in a week or two with the same food to see if the pain is lessening. After a few weeks, if pain from eating or drinking doesn’t get better, or if it gets worse, you should schedule an appointment. It’s possible that another issue like cavities or a tooth fracture are the cause!
#5. Schedule a Dental Check-up
Even if you don’t have tooth pain, you’ll want to schedule a visit with your general dentist shortly after your braces come off. You’ll want to plan for a dental cleaning and basic exam.
The primary benefit of a dental exam as part of your oral care after braces is to look for decay on your teeth now that they’re easier to exam thoroughly. If you kept up with your dental care routine during orthodontic treatment, you shouldn’t have any issues. But it’s not unusual for those with good habits to get cavities from time to time – modern food has a surprising amount of sugar hidden in nearly everything!
A dental cleaning can also help you reestablish a consistent appearance across your teeth. Sometimes a thorough cleaning is all you need instead of harsh whiteners to restore your teeth’s healthy appearance!
#6. Keep an Eye Out for These Potential Issues
Orthodontic treatment is always a benefit to your oral health. With proper alignment and dental issues corrected, you’ll enjoy years of a healthier smile that’s easier to keep free of cavities too! But there are some potential side effects that can happen as a result of braces, so it’s important to keep your eye out for them just in case:
The first concern is gum recession. As the name implies, this is when your gum tissue around your teeth is pulled back or even wears away. Your gum tissue is an important line of defense against cavities and bacteria, covering the roots of your teeth and keeping them firmly in place. When gums recede, you may be more susceptible to infection or other issues.
You can help prevent gum recession! Regular brushing is a great start, keeping bacteria in your mouth to a minimum. But you also want to make sure you aren’t clenching or grinding your teeth. Likewise, wearing your retainer keeps your teeth in the correct position, which reduces issues with your gum tissue as well.
TMJ (Temporomandibular Joint Disorder)
TMJ is a catch-all term for issues with the joint in your jaw and its surrounding muscles. The process of orthodontic treatment involves gentle but consistent pressure on your jaw as it moves your teeth. This can eventually result in your jaw experiencing pain that sticks around for longer than just a day.
If you’re experiencing TMJ, you’ll notice lingering jaw pain, clicking or popping sounds, a feeling that your jaw is locked in place, and even frequent headaches. It’s unlikely that your treatment will lead to TMJ, but if it does, you should let us know! We can help identify and find ways to relieve TMJ issues.
Do you have questions about how to best take care of your braces? We can answer your questions to keep your teeth and gums healthy – schedule a free consultation! Contact us online or call 440-842-8015
Stay connected with Doctor Andy on Social Media!