Braces treatment can create a beautiful smile as long as you care for that smile along the way. Proper oral hygiene is always important, especially when wearing braces. Plaque can build up around brackets and under wires without proper brushing and flossing. This can lead to swollen, red, or bleeding gums from gum disease called gingivitis. Gums with gingivitis can be painful, making proper hygiene even more challenging. The good news is that gingivitis is fairly easy to treat. The bad news is, if it’s not treated, you could end up with infections and even tooth loss.
Appel Orthodontics regularly checks to ensure your treatment is on track. That includes checking your gums for any signs of gingivitis and encouraging good oral hygiene to prevent or reverse gingivitis. It’s not difficult to prevent gingivitis once you understand what gingivitis is and how it affects your gums.
What Is Gingivitis?
Gingivitis is common and is a type of gum disease. It is one of the earliest stages and is reversible if caught and treated early. Symptoms include swelling, redness, soreness, and bleeding of the gums. Gums can feel sore when brushing or flossing, and you may spy blood on your toothbrush.
What causes gingivitis? Gingivitis is caused by a buildup of plaque along the gumline. The plaque contains bacteria that can irritate your gums and cause tooth decay. Over time, that plaque buildup can harden into tartar, trapping bacteria against your gums and teeth.
Braces can make brushing and flossing more challenging, so there is a greater chance of developing gingivitis. That’s why Appel Orthodontics encourages its patients to maintain good oral hygiene throughout their treatment.
Without proper treatment, gingivitis can develop into a more serious gum disease called periodontitis. This can cause more intense pain, infections, and eventual tooth loss. Periodontitis should be treated immediately to prevent tooth loss.
Signs of Gingivitis With Braces
There is a greater risk of gingivitis with braces because proper brushing and flossing with braces is a little more challenging than without braces. Plaque can build up not only along the gumline but also around the brackets. Cleaning the gums can be more of a challenge because it’s harder to get under or over the archwires to floss properly.
Some techniques and tools can make brushing and flossing easier with braces. We encourage our patients to use these tools, and we’re happy to teach you proper methods of brushing and flossing with braces.
What does gingivitis look like with braces? The symptoms of gingivitis are the same with braces as without braces — swollen, red gums, painful gums, and bleeding. If you have any of these symptoms, alert us right away.
How Do You Treat Gingivitis?
Patients who suspect they have gingivitis often have a lot of questions. Can gingivitis be reversed, and if so, how do you treat gingivitis at home? The easiest way to treat gingivitis is to do what you’re supposed to do anyway — brush and floss your teeth at least twice a day for at least two minutes at a time. You want to take care to clean on and around each bracket of your braces.
It’s also important to visit your dentist regularly during your braces treatment. You may think that seeing us every few weeks is enough, but that’s not the case. Your dentist is the one who will provide a deep, thorough cleaning of your teeth twice a year, even with braces.
Your dentist will also be able to spot early signs of gingivitis and will be able to recommend a course of treatment to reverse it before it becomes worse. That may include using better tools for brushing and flossing, such as an electric toothbrush and floss threaders, or it may involve adding a medicinal mouthwash to better combat bacteria and plaque buildup. A good fluoride mouthwash can help prevent gingivitis while strengthening your tooth’s enamel.
Preventing Gingivitis With Braces
The easiest way to prevent gingivitis with braces is to maintain great oral hygiene. We know it can be challenging to brush and floss with braces, but there are tools and tips that can help.
Use an Electric Toothbrush
Most electric toothbrushes have spinning heads that can get over and around brackets to clean away leftover food particles. Those with rounded heads may be able to get around the edges of the brackets and under the archwire better than traditional, manual toothbrushes. The downside is that the braces wear the toothbrush head down faster than normal. The upside is that most electric toothbrushes have heads that are easy to replace. Just be sure to use a soft-bristled toothbrush head.
Use a Floss Threader
Flossing may seem impossible with braces, but it really isn’t. Floss threaders make the process much easier. A floss threader looks like a giant needle with a huge eye, but it’s made of very thin plastic that can slip under or over your archwire and through your teeth. You simply thread the floss through the eye, and it goes through your teeth with the floss threader. Then you floss as normal. It may take a bit of time to get the hang of it, but once you do, you’ll be able to floss almost as fast as if you didn’t have braces.
Use a Fluoride Mouthwash
Mouthwash is a great tool to help your teeth, but only if you get the right type. Lots of mouthwashes are made just to freshen your breath temporarily. To get the best results with braces, look for a mouthwash with fluoride that says it kills bacteria in your mouth. That will give you the best results. Use your mouthwash an hour or two after you brush, so the fluoride in your toothpaste has time to work before it gets rinsed off with the mouthwash. After using the mouthwash, don’t eat or drink for half an hour, so the mouthwash’s fluoride has time to work. Fluoride creates a chemical reaction with your saliva to activate and strengthen your enamel, but it takes about half an hour to get the maximum effect.
Use a Water Flosser
You absolutely should floss with regular dental floss at least once daily because it has the most scrubbing power to clean between your teeth. However, it doesn’t hurt to use a water flosser, such as a Waterpik, to clean between your teeth later in the day after you’ve flossed with dental floss. A water flosser lacks the scrubbing power of dental floss, but it will get out food particles and much of the plaque between your teeth. It’s not required, but it’s a nice tool to have.
Gingivitis With Braces
The key to preventing gingivitis with braces or reversing gingivitis is to make sure you brush and floss regularly. The minimum recommendation is twice a day, but because food can get caught in your braces, it’s better to brush your teeth after every meal.
If you suspect you have gingivitis with braces, you can schedule an appointment in our Philadelphia, PA, office, and we will examine you for signs of gum disease. We will be able to recommend whether you can take care of it at home or see your dentist as soon as possible. Either way, gingivitis should be addressed quickly before it becomes worse and before your braces are removed. After all, we want your end result to be a perfect, beautiful smile.