Flossing with Braces

Oral Hygiene During Orthodontic Treatment

Whether you are completing orthodontic treatment by Dr. Grady or an orthodontist, our wonderful hygienists always teach patients exactly how to take care of their teeth and gums during orthodontic care. Of course, knowing what to do and actually implementing new techniques are two different things and for most people, figuring out how to floss with braces takes the most getting used to. To help give you a better idea, we’ll share everything you need to know about flossing with your hardware.

Patients completing orthodontic treatment with removable aligners have it easy – they can brush and floss as they always have. It’s more difficult to negotiate around the wires and brackets so for that reason, this information is geared towards those with braces.

Why is Flossing With Braces So Important?

Whether you are completing orthodontic treatment by Dr. Grady or an orthodontist, our wonderful hygienists always teach patients exactly how to take care of their teeth and gums during orthodontic care. Of course, knowing what to do and actually implementing new techniques are two different things and for most people, figuring out how to floss with braces takes the most getting used to. To help give you a better idea, we’ll share everything you need to know about flossing with your hardware.

Patients completing orthodontic treatment with removable aligners have it easy – they can brush and floss as they always have. It’s more difficult to negotiate around the wires and brackets so for that reason, this information is geared towards those with braces.

How Often Do You Need to Floss Your Teeth With Braces?

In general, it is recommender you floss at LEAST once per day with or without braces but because of the buildup of plaque and food debris it wouldn’t hurt to floss a few times daily. You can use floss or a power flosser whenever you have time and there are no hard and fast rules about what time of day to floss. However, flossing at night is a good way to eliminate the plaque, bacteria and food particles that have accumulated throughout the day.

Should You Floss or Brush First?

This is a question asked nearly every day in our office. A 2018 study published in the Journal of Periodontology on the efficacy or flossing before or after brushing found flossing before brushing removed significantly more plaque from in between the teeth and in the mouth overall. Subjects who flossed before brushing also had a higher concentration of fluoride from their toothpaste. The fluoride helps to further zap plaque and strengthen enamel. So, our advice is to floss first and then brush if possible.

What is the Best Floss for Braces?

It is a good idea to use a waxed dental floss because your brackets and wires can shred unwaxed dental floss. Unwaxed floss is also more likely to get stuck in your braces. Other than that, the best floss with or without braces is really a personal preference.

Some patients like to use traditional dental floss, but using a floss threader will get the job done much quicker and will help negotiate the orthodontic hardware. While you can use a Waterpik or a water flosser, we recommend it as an adjunct to your oral hygiene routine. Many people want to do what is easiest and feel as though they get things clean enough using a water flosser, but it does not replace regular flossing. The water flosser or Waterpik is something you’ll do in addition to your daily flossing, but most patients find it’s well worth it because it helps get their teeth and gums feeling clean.

How to Floss With Braces Using Traditional Dental Floss

As we said, flossing with traditional dental floss will take longer when you have braces than it will if you use a floss threader. However, if you have your heart set on using regular floss to floss with braces, it’s possible.

Here’s how to floss with braces using regular floss:

  • Break off a length of waxed dental floss about 18 inches long.
  • Using one hand, carefully thread one end of the floss between your arch wire and your teeth. With your other hand, grasp the end of the floss as it makes its way through.
  • Wrap the ends of the dental floss around your index fingers. You can also wrap it around your middle fingers, leaving only a few inches to use between your teeth, and hold the floss tight with your thumbs and index fingers.
  • Position the floss between any two teeth.
  • Glide the floss up and down the side of one tooth, making a C-shape at the base of the tooth when you reach the gums to gently floss the area between your gums and tooth. Then, floss up and down the side of the other tooth, repeating the C-shape to get just under the gum line.
  • Remove the floss and unthread it behind your archwire.
  • Repeat the process on the next set of teeth using a clean section of floss until you’ve flossed all of your teeth, including behind your back molars.

How to Floss With Braces Using a Floss Threader

A floss threader will make flossing with braces just a bit easier. It’s a piece of flexible plastic with a loop on the end that transforms regular floss into floss for braces or restorations like fixed bridgework. There are also versions like Super Floss that have a stiffened end.

As for how to use a floss threader to floss with braces follow these steps:

  • Break off a piece of waxed dental floss about 18 inches long. 
  • Direct one end of your floss through the eye of the floss threader and pull about five inches of the floss through the loop. 
  • Carefully direct the pointed end of your floss threader under your archwire. If you’re using Super Floss, guide the stiffened end of the floss under your wire. Pull the floss through so you can grip it with both hands. 
  • Wrap the floss around your index fingers, leaving a few inches to floss between your teeth with. 
  • Position the floss between any two teeth. 
  • Slide the floss up and down the side of one tooth, making a C-shape at the base of the tooth when you reach the gums to gently floss the area between your gums and tooth. Then, floss up and down the side of the other tooth, getting just under the gumline again. 
  • Gently pull the floss out from behind your archwire. 
  • Use your floss threader again to floss in between your next set of teeth. Repeat the process until you’ve flossed all of your teeth, including around your back molars. 

How to Use a Waterpik or Water Flosser With Braces

You can use a water flosser in addition to your daily flossing in order to dislodge food particles and get your teeth and gums extra clean. A lot of water flosser brands actually have orthodontic tips that are designed to be used with braces. 

Here’s how to use a Waterpik for braces:

  • Fill the reservoir of your water flosser with lukewarm water. Then, insert the flosser tip.
  • Use the lowest pressure setting to start. Place the tip in your mouth while you lean over the sink. 
  • Turn your Waterpik on and close your lips to prevent splashing. Allow the water to run out of your mouth straight into the sink. 
  • Begin with your back teeth. Aim your flosser tip at your gumline and gently brush along the gumline, in between the teeth and around your braces brackets. 
  • Repeat the process on the rest of your teeth until you’ve done your whole mouth. 

Don’t Skip Your Dental Check-Ups!

In addition to brushing and flossing with braces, you’ll also want to be sure you continue to come in during your orthodontic treatment for regular check-ups and cleanings. We will evaluate the health of your teeth and gums, let you know if your brushing and flossing technique could use some improvement, and help you prevent cavities and gum disease. Additionally, during a professional cleaning the hygienist will use special tools to remove the tartar that you can’t eliminate on your own with a regular toothbrush and dental floss, ensuring the best possible oral health. 

If you still have questions about how to floss with braces, ask us! We’ll be more than happy to demonstrate for you, which can be extremely helpful especially if you just started orthodontic treatment.  Not in treatment yet? If you’re interested in learning more about your options for orthodontics schedule a consultation or cleaning appointment and one of our Doctors will be happy to review your options!

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