Oral Health / Vanderbilt Orthodontics / Caring For Your Braces

Caring For Your Braces


It is important to brush well when you have braces. If plaque remains on the teeth for any length of time, it will leave a permanent white scar on your teeth's surface. However, you will notice that it is much harder to keep your teeth clean with braces. Food collects in the brackets and between your teeth, and can only be removed by brushing and flossing.  Brushing after meals should become part of your daily schedule. Use a soft toothbrush with firm pressure and brush at a 45-degree angle to the tooth. Brush in small circles above and below the brackets. Your toothbrush will wear out faster because of your braces, so be sure to replace it whenever the bristles start to fray. With regards to adults with braces, flossing is important and should be done every day. 

Flossing is critical for cleaning between the teeth and should be done every day. Many flossing aids are designed to help you floss with braces. We will review hygiene with you at your regular visiits and give you tips for taking care of your teeth while in orthodontic treatment.

Finally, every patient with cemented appliances should be using a dialy prescription fluoride rinse. For your convenience, this rinse is available for purchase in our office in a variety of flavors.

Eating Habits

Please do not eat hard foods. Especially avoid: 

  • nuts
  • ice
  • crisp taco shells
  • whole apples and carrots (cut them into pieces first)
  • hard French bread crust and rolls
  • spareribs
  • corn on the cob (cut the corn off the cob before eating)
  • popcorn

These foods risk breaking brackets and wires. Also avoid nail biting and pen or pencil chewing habits, since these can damage your braces. Do not eat sticky foods: taffy, caramels, bubble gum, or sticky candy of any sort.

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Broken Braces

Check braces once a week for anything loose or bent. If a bracket or band comes loose or you break a wire, please call our office so that we can arrange an appointment long enough to repair it. If you lose your rubber bands, call us so we can mail you some more or drop by the office and pick some up.

Sore Teeth

After you get your braces on, it is normal for your teeth to be sore for about 2 or 3 days. Tylenol or Advil will help relieve this discomfort. Some irritation to the cheeks and tongue is normal, but if you feel anything sharp is poking you or any sores are developing, please call our office.


Rubber bands (or elastics) are attached to your braces. They exert enough force to make your teeth move. In order for there to be sufficient pressure, wear your elastics all the time and change them out every day. Any time missed in wearing your elastics will only make your treatment take longer. Remove them only when brushing your teeth, gums and braces after meals. Then put them back on immediately.

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Removable Appliances

The removable appliance is carefully designed to move or to hold your teeth. It is important that it is worn according to instructions and brought to each appointment.

Wear your appliance at all times, even while you are asleep. It may be removed while eating, swimming, or playing vigorous sports activities. Avoid flipping your appliance with your tongue. This can cause damage to your teeth or breakage of your appliance.

Clean your appliance by brushing it daily with toothpaste. Never wrap your appliance in a paper napkin or tissue and set it down on the table! You or someone else may throw it away. Don't put it in your pocket when playing or you may break or lose it. Whenever it is not in your mouth it should be in its plastic appliance case.

Emergency Instructions

If a wire causes irritation, push the wire away from the area using the eraser end of a pencil or a Q-Tip. If the wire cannot be tucked away, cover the end of the wire with a small piece of wax, a cotton ball, or a piece of sugarless gum until you can see your orthodontist for an adjustment.

If the main wire has come out of the tube on your back molar tooth, attempt to reinsert the wire with a pair of tweezers. If the wire is not sticking you, place a piece of wax over the area. If the wire is sticking you and wax does not help, the wire can be cut with a small wire cutter or toenail clipper close to the back of the last brace. This is a last resort if professional help is unavailable. Please make sure not to  swallow any small pieces or cut wire!

If a bracket becomes loose, it usually remains connected to the main wire by a little rubber colored ring. Tweezers can be used to reposition the brace if it flips around the wire and becomes a source of irritation. Call our office and inform us of your situation.

If a piece of your braces breaks, save the piece and call our office to schedule a repair visit.

Remain calm if you swallow a piece of your appliance. This will usually go into the stomach, passing out of the body in a bowel movement. However, should difficulty breathing be experienced you should seek immediate medical attention. X-rays will be taken to determine the location of the swallowed piece.

If a retainer cracks, remove the retainer from your mouth and bring all the pieces to our office.

Take Aspirin, Tylenol or Ibuprofen (unless allergic) if your teeth are sore after a monthly visit.

Rinsing your mouth with a cup of warm water and teaspoon of salt can also be soothing. If you teeth get sore suddenly in the middle of the month, give us a call. It is unusual for the teeth to get sore several weeks after your last office visit.

If food becomes stuck between your teeth, use dental floss or a proxy brush to dislodge the food.

If you cut your gums, tongue or the inside of your cheek, apply finger pressure to the bleeding site for several minutes. If the bleeding does not clot, call your orthodontist or family dentist.

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