Kids and Braces: Help with Oral Hygiene

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When your child gets braces, that’s just the beginning of a brand-new type of oral hygiene regimen. Even kids without braces need regular reminders about best brushing practices — but a child with braces might need a little extra support.


The most important thing parents can do is work with the orthodontist and make sure kids understand what can happen if they don’t care for their teeth while wearing braces. Children might need to avoid some foods, brush and floss differently and wear bands, depending on their treatment plan.

What parents have control over is ensuring their child never misses an orthodontist appointment. People with braces can have a higher rate of plaque buildup, gingivitis and demineralization (mostly because they’re not brushing well enough).

Plus, oral hygiene is simply more challenging with braces. However, without good oral hygiene, a child might be in braces longer, get cavities or even have early onset periodontal disease.

Brush Up on the Basics

You probably think brushings should happen twice a day for 2 minutes each time, but that’s the bare minimum for people without braces. For orthodontic patients, it’s not uncommon to brush four times per day and/or after every meal and snack.

You may want to extend the time well beyond the 2 minutes, too. Put a toothbrush everywhere your child might need it in a pinch and replace it as soon as the bristles fray.

When brushing, your child should hold the toothbrush at an angle, and move it in small circles, being sure to reach into the gumline. Every tooth should be brushed for several seconds to remove all food particles. He or she should brush the tops, fronts and backs of teeth; the tongue; the molars; and the back of the mouth. Clean the brackets by angling the brush directly into them.


Flossing can be especially challenging with braces, which is why most patients use a threader or water pick. Threader floss has a stiff end that lets you get the floss in between brackets easier. You should slide the floss up and down (not side to side) between the teeth.

Floss into the gumline, following the tooth’s natural curve in a C shape. Be especially careful near the archwire, as too much pressure can move it. Know that it’s normal for gums to bleed when a child first starts flossing. However, if you’re still seeing bleeding after a week, talk to your orthodontist.

A water pick requires no threading at all. Try both and see which your child prefers. If flossing is too much work, it’s more likely to be avoided.

Try to avoid sticky or hard foods like gum, Starburst candy, licorice, peanut butter, hard taco shells, nuts, baguettes and corn on the cob. Instead, look for substitutes, or get creative (like turning those big apple slices into a sauce).

For more tips on braces and kids, contact Johnson Elite Orthodontics today!

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