The road to a beautifully straight smile using braces can be filled with roadblocks. One challenge is maintaining an effective dental hygiene routine. When it comes to brushing and flossing, braces can make it more difficult to clean your teeth thoroughly.

If plaque isn’t removed every day, it creates a sticky film that produces bacteria and can lead to gingivitis, a minor gum disease. Anyone can develop gingivitis, not just people wearing braces. In fact, more than 75 percent of Americans over 35 are affected by gum disease. The good news is that gingivitis is reversible and you never need to wait until the end of your orthodontic treatment to get rid of it. At Frey Orthodontics, we want you to know exactly what gingivitis is and how you can reverse it once you have it.

Braces, Plaque and Gingivitis

While you’re in braces, accumulating plaque can be more severe than when you aren’t. This is partly because of the way braces push food particles into your brackets when you bite down. Some of these food particles rinse out easily, but some debris can get caught in the tiny spaces between your gums, teeth, and brackets and become very difficult to clean effectively. Because bacteria live and breed in it, any plaque that’s stuck near your gums can cause gingivitis. Gingivitis is basically an immune reaction by your gums in an effort to keep bacteria at bay. It causes inflammation that results in swelling of the gums. Bleeding and pain are possible if left unchecked because of this inflammation that brings the capillaries closer to the surface.

Orthodontics is a kind of controlled inflammation because it helps the gums become more relaxed, and makes it easier to guide your teeth into their new positions. Since your gums will already be inflamed when you are in braces, it makes it even easier for bacteria to irritate them. They’re under so much stress already, they’ll attempt to create an immune reaction. It’s really easy for inflammation to get out of hand if you aren’t careful, and your gums can sometimes swell enough to obstruct your brackets if they aren’t treated. Other factors besides oral hygiene can increase the risk of developing gingivitis including a poor diet, broken fillings, your genetics, and using tobacco.

Some symptoms of gingivitis are:

  • Noticeably bad breath
  • Tenderness in your gums
  • Loose teeth
  • Red, irritated, swollen gums
  • Minor bleeding after brushing and flossing

If gingivitis isn’t treated, you may develop a more severe form of gum disease called periodontitis. Over time, your body attempts to fight off the byproducts of bacteria by breaking down the bone and connective tissues that hold your teeth in place. This can end in serious damage because your gums will begin to recede while pockets.

smiling young man with toothbrush

Preventing Gingivitis While Wearing Braces

Brushing and flossing thoroughly and regularly, along with the use of mouthwash, should be enough to stop gingivitis in its tracks. However, if you’re in braces, flossing is difficult, if not impossible, and much less effective. Many people become frustrated and end up abandoning their flossing altogether, which of course creates a situation in which gingivitis is almost guaranteed to happen.

Our team at Frey Orthodontics knows that brushing and flossing effectively can be difficult for people with fixed braces. Studies have shown that using an interdental brush is one of the best ways a patient in braces can remove plaque. Interdental brushes are thin, round or cone-shaped brushes with a small head of bristles held on by wire.

Some of these brushes have long handles that are similar to toothbrushes, while others have short or specially shaped handles to make them easier to grip. They’re designed to reach those tight spaces where plaque is likely to build up and should be inserted between the teeth gently. They come in different sizes, so make sure you choose one that can comfortably fit in between your teeth without having to force it. There are other ways you can help prevent gingivitis while in braces, like:

  • Drinking water with meals to help wash away food particles
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Using an antibacterial mouth rinse
  • Using a Waterpik— a product that harnesses water pressure to floss your teeth
  • Gargling with warm salt water to reduce any irritation in your gums may

Don’t let a little plaque scare you away from straightening your teeth. By keeping a close eye on your oral hygiene and following Dr. Frey’s advice, you’ll be ready to spot any danger signs and act on them before they get out of hand.

Remember, regular brushing and flossing is the best way to prevent plaque from breeding bacteria, it just takes a little extra effort when you’re in braces.

man smiling on a trip

Here at Frey Orthodontics, we want your orthodontic experience to be as comfortable as possible because we care about you and your smile! If you notice any of the gingivitis symptoms we have talked about today, or if you’re feeling any major discomfort with your braces, like swollen gums, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with our office for help. We’ll check to see what’s causing your discomfort and provide home care tips to keep your smile healthy.

If you’re in the Naperville or Algonquin area, stop by one of our offices, or give us a call to set up an appointment today. We’re ready to help you on toward that beautiful smile you deserve!