Braces! How to Keep a Healthy Smile Through the Wires

How to Floss with Braces

To be clear, there's no law saying you have to floss first. There is, however, a law saying you have to floss, and if you floss before you brush rather than after, the fluoride in the toothpaste can get between your teeth better.

Usually, flossing is a simple task: Slide the floss between two teeth, slide up and down along the side of each tooth, move to the next two teeth. Bond some brackets to each tooth and run a wire connecting them, and the task becomes slightly more complicated.

Not to worry. People do it every day. Here's how:

  1. Pick a pair of teeth to start with, and thread the floss between them above the wire (below the wire for lower teeth). Rather than using plain floss, consider using special orthodontic floss that has a stiff "threader." This makes it easier to get the floss into the space between your teeth.
  2. Gently slide the floss up and down one tooth, from the wire to the gum line. Be very careful not to press down on the wire, since this can bend it.
  3. Move to the other tooth in the pair, and gently clean from wire to gum. You should be moving the floss up and down at least four times.
  4. Move to the next tooth pair. Be sure to be methodical about it so you don't forget where you are and miss a space.

While it does take longer to floss around braces, in the end, it's not much different than regular flossing -- you just need to start at the wire rather than at the very top of the tooth.

Once you've made your way around your mouth, you can finish up your between-the-teeth care with a water device (like Waterpik) if you want. This is not a substitute for flossing, but it can be used in conjunction with it, to remove any particles you may have missed with the floss.

Next, time to brush ...

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