Are you wondering how you can best maintain healthy gums with braces?
Braces are a wonderful orthodontic treatment option if you have misaligned, crowded, bucked or gapped teeth. However, there are some downsides to consider and to find solutions to. Most prominent among these challenges is perhaps the question of how to keep your gums healthy while you are wearing braces.
It is vitally important to maintain a high level of oral hygiene while undergoing your orthodontic treatment – because if you don’t, what is the point of having perfectly straight teeth if you develop tooth decay and periodontal disease along the way?
Keep reading to learn everything worth learning about how to maintain healthy gums and teeth while undergoing teeth straightening treatment.
Risks of braces to your gum health
Unfortunately, traditional metal and ceramic braces come with certain drawbacks. One of them is that it becomes very difficult to keep your teeth and gums healthy and clean throughout your orthodontic treatment.
Because you are unable to remove your braces when it is time to eat or to clean your teeth, plaque can very easily build up and bits of food can get stuck in the metal wire or in-between your teeth. And not only is it easier for food particles and plaque to build up when you are wearing braces, these things also become much harder to see and to remove.
It can be tempting to slack in terms of your oral hygiene habits while you are wearing braces, precisely because keeping your teeth and gums clean with braces is such a strenuous set of tasks. However, poor oral hygiene is never, ever, something you want to experience.
To illustrate what we mean, here are the most prominent risks that wearing traditional braces poses to your gums:
Bad breath is going to be the least of your problems if you neglect your oral health while wearing braces.
When you are wearing braces, plaque and food particles have much more opportunity to build up and get stuck, either between your teeth or between your teeth and the braces wire. When plaque and food are left to fester, bad breath is inevitable.
Sore and swollen gums
Gum swelling is one of the most common effects that wearing braces has on gums.
Even though the movement is not visible to the naked eye, your braces are applying constant pressure on your teeth. As a result, your teeth are shifting in your mouth. And not only are your teeth shifting – your teeth roots and even your jaw bone are shifting too.
All of the pressure is likely to cause gum inflammation, and it is very common to have sore, red and irritated gums while undergoing orthodontist treatment.
An unpleasant potential side effect of wearing traditional braces is gum recession.
Gum recession is when your gums draw back from the teeth, often to such a degree that sensitive teeth roots are left exposed. Not only is gum recession aesthetically jarring, it can also be rather painful and can even lead to tooth loss if left untreated.
The answer to why traditional braces can cause gum recession is the amount of force and pressure that the braces apply to the teeth. The braces are essentially pulling your teeth out of their original positions and shifting them into new ones, and the teeth roots and jaw bone with them. The pressure can also cause gum inflammation and bone erosion around your teeth. The gums will follow the bone, and the result is gum recession.
Gingival hyperplasia is a form of gingival enlargement, or abnormal overgrowth of gum tissue, where the gums become so swollen that they appear to be growing over your teeth.
Gingival hyperplasia does not respond to any form of at-home treatment, and in severe cases your dentist may need to remove some of the enlarged and irritated gum tissue.
Gingivitis, also known as gum disease, is caused by plaque layering itself along the gum line.
The symptoms of gum disease are swollen, inflamed, pink or deep red and painful gums, bad breath, gums that feel tender or bleed when touched or when you are brushing your teeth, gums that recede from your teeth, loose teeth or even tooth loss.
If you suspect you may be in the early stages of developing gingivitis, it is important to see a dental professional as soon as possible. Gum disease, if left untreated, can place you at risk of numerous much more severe oral and general health problems. These include tooth loss, damage to your jaw bone, and even cardiovascular disease. In extreme cases, gingivitis that is left untreated can be fatal.
In other words, it is absolutely worth taking great care of your oral health (while wearing braces, as well as before and after).
This is how to keep your gums healthy with braces
Now that you are abundantly clued in on the potential risks of wearing traditional braces, you are no doubt eager to know what you can do to prevent any of these unfortunate outcomes from happening to you.
These are the most important things you can do to ensure your gum health while wearing braces.
Stay on top of your oral hygiene
The single most important thing you can do to maintain healthy gums with braces is to stay on top of your oral hygiene. Poor oral hygiene is the root of many evils, and by the same token, great oral hygiene is a master key to both your oral and overall health.
Make sure that you incorporate these steps into your oral hygiene habits:
- Use an orthodontic floss threader. Instead of regular dental floss before brushing your teeth, use an orthodontic floss threader. Orthodontic floss threaders look like large plastic needles and are made from a sturdy but flexible material. They were specifically developed to make it easy to thread dental floss through teeth that are connected by bridgework or braces.
- Deploy proper brushing technique. You would think that it is obvious how you should brush your teeth, but many patients are much too forceful or use a back-and-forth motion with their toothbrush that is detrimental to gum health and which may even promote gum recession. The best toothbrushing technique involves using a soft-bristled brush and moving it in small circular motions over your teeth without using too much force. Make sure that you brush along your gum line, as this is where most of the plaque tends to build up, particularly when you are wearing braces. Brush for at least two minutes twice a day and always use fluoride toothpaste.
- Use antibacterial mouth rinse. After brushing your teeth, follow up with an antibacterial mouth rinse. This gets rid of any remaining bacteria and plaque that you may have missed with your toothbrush. Use a high fluoride mouthwash.
Consider clear aligners instead
A great alternative to wearing traditional braces which we often recommend is wearing clear aligners.
Clear aligners, such as Invisalign or Smile Direct Club aligners, have many distinct advantages over traditional ceramic or metal braces. These unique advantages also help you circumvent the risks to your gums posed by wearing traditional braces.
Unlike traditional braces, clear braces are removable, which means that you can take them out of your mouth to eat and to brush and floss thoroughly between your teeth. The fact that you can take your set of aligners out means that no food gets stuck in them, and your teeth are much easier to keep clean.
Healthy gums with braces FAQ
How do I keep my gums healthy with braces?
Keeping your gums healthy with braces can be a bit of a challenge. Fortunately, however, it is not an impossible task – it simply takes a bit of extra time and commitment.
Staying on top of your oral hygiene is the key to maintaining healthy gums while wearing braces. This means brushing and flossing twice a day for at least two minutes. You should also use an antibacterial fluoride mouthwash after brushing your teeth.
Do braces affect gums?
Yes, braces affect gums in the short term. The reason for this is that the amount of pressure that the braces put on your teeth shifts not only the teeth, but the teeth roots and the jaw bone, as well as all of the surrounding tissues and ligaments. This includes the gums.
With all of the pressure and shifting going on, the gums are likely to become swollen, irritated and inflamed while you are wearing braces. This is perfectly normal, but it is important that you keep an eye on this and stay vigilant with your oral hygiene, lest gum inflammation escalate into a receding gum line or gum disease.
Will gums go back to normal after braces?
In most cases, yes, gums will revert to how they were before you were wearing braces all by themselves.
Can your teeth be too weak for braces?
In most cases, teeth are strong enough to withstand the constant firm pressure applied to them by braces.
However, there may be cases where you have not been taking good care of your teeth in the past, which might have left them vulnerable and prone to chipping. If your teeth are weak or brittle, it might be worth considering clear aligners instead of traditional braces.
Keeping your gums healthy and clean while undergoing orthodontic treatment is no small feat. However, it is by no means impossible either.
Your best line of defence is to make sure that you keep practicing excellent oral hygiene habits throughout your teeth straightening treatment. This means brushing and flossing twice a day, using fluoride toothpaste and mouthwash, and using the correct brushing technique.
If you want to skip the hassle of having to clean your gums with braces but still want a beautiful straight smile, clear aligners are a great alternative.