Braces! How to Keep a Healthy Smile Through the Wires

It takes a lot of work to keep the nooks and crannies created by braces clean.
It takes a lot of work to keep the nooks and crannies created by braces clean.

You won't find a lot of people who love wearing dental braces. At best, they're bearing the discomfort in the interest of a beautiful smile down the road.

Most people, whether they've had braces or not, can imagine the discomfort -- all that metal in your mouth, pulled tighter and tighter over the course of a year or two. What lots of people don't think of, though, is the oral-hygiene issue. You've brushed and flossed a certain way your whole life and then -- BAM! -- the old ways don't work. You're caring for what might as well be a totally different set of teeth.

Cleaning teeth with braces takes about three times longer than cleaning teeth without them, and it requires some technique. But it's crucial: When you're in braces, insufficient oral hygiene can have more dire effects, because it's so much easier for food to get caught in the brackets and wires, leading to cavities, discomfort, gum disease and, perhaps worse, having to take the braces off and start all over once your mouth is back in shape.

So, how to care effectively for those teeth? It's a bit different (and more involved) than caring for non-braced teeth, but once you get the hang of it, it goes a lot faster. Here, the proper ways to brush, floss and eat to get through your treatment with minimal complications and maximum results -- and possibly a shortened tenure with all that metal in your mouth.

First step, flossing: Not the easiest thing, since there are wires connecting your teeth, but totally doable ...