The day braces are removed is an exciting one for patients. To ensure the most beautiful smile after orthodontic treatment, it is essential that the teeth and gums are kept healthy during treatment.

Braces do not cause cavities. However, when braces are worn, plaque accumulates more quickly and is somewhat more challenging to remove. If not adequately removed, breakdown of this substance by bacteria will result in an acidic environment in the mouth. This leads to gingivitis (inflammation of the gums), followed by enamel decalcifications (permanent white spots) and finally, caries (cavities).

Proper brushing and flossing are critical, taking special care to clean around the appliances. Inspecting the teeth and braces should be done to make sure all debris has been effectively removed. To assist our patients in their oral hygiene efforts, at our office we dispense a care kit containing several items including disclosing tablets, which will stain anything remaining on the teeth purple, allowing visualization of any leftover plaque or food. Fluoride mouth rinses can be used to promote enamel remineralization, which will aid in the prevention of white spots and cavities. Patients should be seen regularly for dental cleanings, and these cleanings may need to be done more frequently in patients for whom proper oral hygiene is more of a challenge. We remove the wires for our patients when they will be having their teeth cleaned. For patients displaying a more significant amount of plaque and food accumulation we will also remove the wires for a week at a time to facilitate unobstructed flossing.

Special mention needs to be made of oral hygiene during orthodontic treatment using aligners (clear plastic slipover devices that can also be used to straighten the teeth). While home care is more straightforward with aligners since they are removed for cleaning, it is still possible to have gingivitis, decalcifications and caries when the devices and teeth are not properly or frequently cleaned.

A beautiful smile is an asset. Studies show that our smile is one of the first things people notice about us. Spending a few extra moments on home care pays off in a smile that is free of inflamed gums, white spots and cavities after orthodontic treatment is complete.