Caring for Your
Taking care of your appliances during orthodontic treatment is vital, whether we’re talking about your braces, rapid palatal expander, Invisalign® clear aligners, or retainer.
It will require some adjustments on your part, but compliance with your orthodontist’s instructions is the key to success during treatment. Don’t worry though, the team at RTO knows exactly how to help you get the best results during, and after, your treatment.
Your Teeth Deserve Attention, Too
Having good oral hygiene during treatment will keep your teeth clean and gums healthy, and move your teeth move faster and more predictably while keeping your teeth free from stains and decay.
Poor brushing and excessive breakage of braces brackets will result in longer treatment, compromised outcomes, cavities, and staining of the teeth. We will help you learn the proper way to brush and floss with braces or clear aligners!
Do Your Braces or Aligners Need Repair?
During treatment, braces can sometimes come loose from the teeth, a wire can poke your cheek, or your aligner can get rough and worn.
If this happens, just give us a call to help determine the best time to repair the problem. In some cases, you can repair your orthodontic appliance at home until you’re able to come into one of the RTO offices.
Carefully follow all of the instructions you are given regarding your dental care while wearing your braces. Specific steps may vary depending on the type of braces you have. If you have questions, give us a call.
- Be Thorough – Be sure to brush thoroughly after any meal or snack. It is important to keep your teeth and braces as clean as possible to avoid potential problems. After brushing your teeth, you should also brush your tongue and rinse thoroughly with water or mouthwash.
- Bring A Travel Toothbrush – It’s a good idea to carry a travel toothbrush when you will be away from home.
- Take Time Before Bed – Before going to bed at night be sure to brush thoroughly and floss carefully. It may take a little extra time but this is an important step in maintaining your oral hygiene on your way to a better smile and healthier teeth.
- Use A Good Toothbrush – Use a soft rounded-bristle toothbrush that is in good condition.
- Keep Spare Toothbrushes – When wearing braces your toothbrushes will wear out faster and need to be replaced more often, so be sure to keep some spare toothbrushes on hand.
- Practice Makes Perfect – Flossing with braces may take a little more time and practice to get in all the hard-to-reach places. A floss threader may be necessary to get the floss under the archwire.
- Don’t Forget Your Gums – Make sure you clean along and under the gum lines with floss each night before going to bed.
- Check The Edges – After you have properly brushed and flossed, your braces should look clean and shiny, making it easy to see the edges of the braces.
Avoid Any Hard, Sticky, Or Chewy Foods
Be mindful that braces are sensitive to damage, so you’ll need to avoid certain foods for as long as you have braces. These include hard, sticky, and chewy foods that can damage the wires or bands, or cause a bracket to separate from a tooth. Examples of hard, sticky, and chewy foods are:
- Hard Foods – Popcorn, nuts, peanut brittle, ice, corn chips, Doritos, pretzels, bagels, sub rolls, pizza crust, hard candy, lollipops, jawbreakers, etc. Corn may be eaten as long as it is cut off the cob first. Slice hard fruits and vegetables such as carrots, celery, and apples into bite-size pieces and chew on your back teeth.
- Sticky Foods – Gum (sugarless, Freedent and Stick Free gum), caramel, taffy, gumdrops, Starbursts, Gummy Bears, Sugar Daddy, Charleston Chew, Snickers, Fruit Roll Ups, etc.
- Chewy Foods – Beef jerky, Slim Jims, granola bars. Meats such as chicken, steak, spare ribs, and pork chops may be eaten but please cut meat from the bone.
Hints & Tips For Eating With Braces
- Change Your Chewing – Different chewing techniques can be helpful in preventing damage to braces. Instead of biting down on foods with your front teeth, you may find it easier to use a fork and knife to cut food into bite-size pieces. You may also find it easier to chew with your back teeth, which are stronger.
- Try Not To Pick – One way to damage your appliances is by picking at them or playing with them.
- Beware Nervous Chewing – Chewing on pens and pencils can cause brackets to break. Damaging your braces could prolong your treatment, meaning you’ll have to wear them for a longer period of time.
Remember – If anything becomes loose or broken, call the office as soon as possible for instructions.
Elastics are also referred to as rubber bands and are used on your braces to help us move your teeth with a gentle but continuous force. This force is applied by an archwire that runs through brackets that have been attached to the surface of your teeth. Your teeth move best when elastics are worn consistently.
Rules To Follow When Wearing Elastics
- Elastics need to be worn 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for your teeth to move.
- If possible, leave elastics on while eating to gain maximum benefit.
- Change your elastics once a day because they lose their strength.
- Remove elastics to brush your teeth. It’s a good idea to leave your elastics in the same area when you brush your teeth. This way you will see them and remember to put them back on.
- ALWAYS carry extra elastics with you so that if an elastic breaks you will be able to replace it right away.
- Your teeth may be a little tender for a couple of days. If you wear your elastics as instructed, any discomfort will soon disappear. If you take your elastics on and off, your teeth will never get a chance to become accustomed to them, and your teeth will always be sore.
- Please call one of our offices if you run low on elastics and we will gladly help you get some more.
Separators are little rubber elastics that fit in between your back teeth. They gently open small spaces between these teeth so that molar bands can be placed at your next visit.
Your teeth may be sensitive after the orthodontic separators/spacers are put in place. Any discomfort you’re experiencing should disappear in a few days. To relieve any soreness, Tylenol or what you normally take for a headache would be fine. Foods that are sticky or chewy like gum should be avoided – see a more comprehensive food list here.
Please continue to brush regularly and floss only between teeth that do not have orthodontic separators in them. If a separator happens to fall out, don’t worry, enough space has been made. If you have any questions, please call during our regular office hours.
A lost separator does not have to be replaced.
Orthodontic emergencies are unusual and most orthodontic repairs can wait to be handled at your next regularly scheduled appointment. A broken bracket or ligature may be annoying but rarely painful; these types of repairs can be made at a routine visit. On the other hand, a displaced wire or other traumatic incidents may require immediate attention.
You can call the office to receive instructions on how to care for your emergency and how to contact a responsible assistant. Here at RTO, we always have a doctor or assistant “on-call” to help you with these problems, most of which can be alleviated at home. This is certainly your first line of action. Never hesitate to give us a call! We want you to feel comfortable and assured that all is under control.
- Use your fingers to put your aligners place. First place the aligners over your front teeth, and then use your fingers to push the aligner down gently over your molars. When aligners are correctly inserted, they will fit all the way down on the teeth, with no space between the top of the aligners and the top of the teeth. Aligners will fit tightly at first but should fit well at the end of the one-week period.
- Keep aligners in except when flossing, brushing, and eating. It’s also best to remove the aligners when drinking warm beverages such as coffee or tea, or when drinking sugary drinks such as soda.
- Remove the aligner by pulling it off both sides of your back teeth simultaneously then lifting it off of your front teeth. Place your aligners in the case we provided any time they are not being worn.
- Clean aligners with a toothbrush and toothpaste.
- Wear each set of aligners for two weeks unless our office directs you to vary from this schedule.
- Wear aligners in the correct numerical order. (Each aligner is labeled by number and with a U or an L to designate upper or lower.)
- Keep all of your old aligners and bring them to your orthodontic appointments.
- Don’t place your aligners in or on a napkin or tissue. Many aligners have accidentally been thrown out this way!
- Don’t use your teeth to “bite” your aligners into place.
- If you have pets, don’t place your aligners anywhere that your pets can reach them. Pets are attracted to saliva and would enjoy chewing on your Invisalign® trays!
- Do not use Denture cleaner, alcohol, or bleach to clean your aligners.
- Do not use boiling water or warm water on your aligners.
- Don’t chew gum with your aligners in.
- It would be best not to smoke while wearing aligners. The smoke can stain the aligners as well as your teeth.
Just In Case
- If you lose the tab attached to your tooth that helps the aligner snap on, please call our office right away so that we can determine if you need to come in before your next scheduled appointment.
- If you lose one of your aligner trays, please wear the next tray if you have it. If you do not have the next tray, please wear the previous tray. It is extremely important to use a tray to keep teeth from shifting. Call our office to let us know which tray was lost so that we can determine if a replacement tray is needed. There may be a fee if replacement trays are required.
The Rapid Palatal Expander (RPE) is used to widen a narrow top jaw. It is usually painless, but some pressure may be felt as the palatal expander is activated each day.
- As previously mentioned, your appliance needs to be activated each a day for the number of turns you have been instructed to apply. To activate your appliance:
- Insert the key into the hole in the middle of the appliance.
- Gently and steadily push the key toward the back of your mouth. Push it as far back as possible.
- Remove the key towards the back of your throat trying not to pull forward which would reverse the previous turn!
- You will experience a tingling sensation around your nose for a minute.
- After several turns (or after several days), you may notice a space between your front teeth. This is a good sign! This is only temporary and will be closed.
- Be sure to keep your appliance free of food particles.
- You can do this by brushing your appliance while you brush your teeth, by directing your toothbrush towards the roof of your mouth.
- Rinsing with a glass of water will also help loosen food particles which may become lodged on the top of your expander.
- If at any time you experience discomfort that does not go away or if your appliance becomes loose, please call the office.
- If for any reason you cannot keep your scheduled appointment, do not activate your appliance beyond the instructed number of turns.
Keep these materials on hand to help with the most common orthodontic maintenance and minor emergencies:
- Interdental Or Proxabrushes – These brushes fit between teeth and help patients to clean around wires without damaging them.
- Non-Medicated Orthodontic Relief Wax – This can be placed over brackets or wires that may be irritating gum tissues. This can be especially helpful at night when sleeping when your mouth may get drier than during the daytime when you can regularly hydrate.
- Antibacterial Mouthwash – Use this to reduce inflammation and prevent infection. For minor sores in the mouth, Peroxyl, an antiseptic rinse containing hydrogen peroxide may be used up to 4 times per day after brushing. Refer to the product label for specific instructions.
- Dental Floss, An Interproximal Brush, Or A Toothpick – Use any of these items for removing food that gets caught between teeth or wires.
- Sterile Tweezers – Use them to replace orthodontic rubber bands that have come off.
- Q-Tip Or Pencil Eraser – These are good tools to push a wire up against a tooth if it has come loose and is irritating the cheeks or gums. If it is not possible to reposition the wire so it is more comfortable, place wax over the end of the wire and call our office so that we can set a time to have the wire adjusted and put back into place.
- Salt & Water – Used for warm salt-water rinses, which help heal sore gums and tissues in the mouth.
- Non-Prescription Pain Relievers – Acetaminophen or ibuprofen, for example, can help with the temporary discomfort that sometimes occurs for the first day or two after an orthodontic adjustment.
- Topical Anesthetic Treatments – For example, Orabase or Ora-Gel, can be applied with a Q-tip to any abrasions or sores in the mouth should they occur.
Retainers are used to hold your teeth in their corrected position. There are two types: removable and fixed (bonded in place) retainers. We will recommend the style that we feel will maintain your correction best.
Handle your retainers with care to avoid a charge for broken or lost retainers. Follow these tips and care instructions after receiving your retainers:
- Your speech may be affected the first few days of wearing your retainers. Reading aloud to yourself can help you become more accustomed to your retainers and will allow your speech to quickly return to normal.
- To keep your teeth in their new position, your retainers should be worn at night while you sleep. We will instruct you further when you may reduce wearing time.
- ALWAYS keep your retainers in your case when eating. NEVER leave them on a lunch tray, in a pocket, or wrapped in a napkin. Any of these situations may result in losing or breaking your retainers and an unnecessary expense.
- When brushing your teeth, be sure to brush your retainers also. (Remember plaque can also form on your retainers, so keep them clean.) Use your toothbrush, toothpaste, and cold water.
- Never boil or use hot water as this could damage your retainers.
- To assure a proper fit, it is very important to bring your retainers to your appointments so they may be adjusted.
Contact us if you have any questions – we’re happy to help.