Maintaining Your Orthodontic Treatment From Home

The last several weeks have featured a number of mandated closures and stay-at-home orders all over the country. For the safety of our community, Szymanowski Orthodontics is currently closed except for emergencies, and we’ve had many patients concerned about how this may affect their orthodontic journey. If you’ve been feeling upset about this interruption to your treatment plan, we understand and we are here to help you through this, even if it is from afar!

While our office is temporarily closed, our team is still able to meet your needs thanks to technology. We’re connecting with patients through virtual visits, phone calls, and email, and we can also advise you on the many things you can do to maintain your treatment from home! In fact, we’ll be discussing a few of the ways you can keep your smile healthy and your appliance safe right now in this blog! Keep reading to learn more.

Maintain a good brushing and flossing routine

Dental hygiene really should be a priority for everyone, but it’s especially important for orthodontic patients. A healthy mouth is a must for moving teeth successfully! If you don’t practice good dental hygiene during treatment, it can lengthen the amount of time you need to be in braces or aligners.

The first step in any dental hygiene routine should be effective brushing. Using a soft toothbrush and fluoridated toothpaste, thoroughly clean all three surfaces of the teeth—outer, inner, and chewing. If you wear braces, pay special attention to the areas between the brackets and gums since bits of food can get stuck there. Be sure to carefully clear around the wires and teeth, too. If you’re finding it difficult to get into these hard to reach areas effectively, an interdental brush or waterpik can help remove any remaining food particles and plaque.

Brush at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, for at least two minutes each time. And don’t forget about flossing, which is an essential part of maintaining your oral health. Some people have a hard time flossing with braces, so try threaders or waterpiks to if that’s the case for you. Just remember that these are supplemental tools, and shouldn’t take the place of a regular brushing and flossing routine.

Be mindful of what you’re eating 

As important as brushing and flossing is, what you put in your mouth matters, too! We know food restrictions can be annoying for braces patients, but they’re in place to protect both your teeth and your appliance. Crunchy and chewy foods can bend brackets, warp wires, and get stuck in all the nooks and crannies braces create. To avoid any complications, you should steer clear of the following items throughout the treatment process.

  • chips
  • ice
  • gum
  • some raw fruits and veggies
  • popcorn
  • caramel
  • tough cuts of meat
  • several types of candy

Additionally, you should break crusty bread into bite-sized pieces and remove corn from the cob before eating. Keep pens, pencils, and fingernails out of your mouth, too! 

It can be frustrating to have to skip some of your favorite meals and snacks, but try to remember that this part won’t last forever. All your hard work will be worth it once we remove your braces and you see your new smile.

Treating non-emergencies from home

You may not be sure how to tell the difference between a true orthodontic emergency and something that can be treated from home or via a virtual visit. Generally speaking, real emergencies include any: 

  • serious injury or trauma to the face, neck, mouth, teeth, or gums
  • swelling, infection, or bleeding of the gums or mouth
  • severe pain or discomfort in your teeth, mouth, face, or neck

If you experience any of these symptoms, please contact us right away so we can advise you what to do next. Fortunately, emergencies like this tend to be few and far between. There are quite a few minor orthodontic issues you can treat from home, and the following remedies can be very effective at lessening or relieving your symptoms.

Mouth sores

Orthodontic treatment doesn’t cause mouth sores in and of itself, but unfortunately,  some patients seem to be susceptible to getting them while they’re in braces. If you’re dealing with a painful sore on your cheeks, lips, tongue, or gums, you can get some relief by swabbing a small amount of topical anesthetic directly to the sore.

Loose or broken brackets, bands, or wires

If any part of your braces comes loose or breaks during treatment, let us know as soon as possible so we can determine what your next steps should be. If a band or bracket is broken but still attached to the wire, try to leave it alone until you speak with us, and don’t connect any elastics to it during this time.

If any piece of your braces has completely broken off, place it in a secure bag and we’ll advise you on what to do. If you’re experiencing irritation, you can cover the component that’s bothering you with a small amount of orthodontic wax for relief.

Misplaced archwire, bracket, or tie

As your teeth begin moving towards the desired positions, you may find the wire connecting them shifts a bit as well. This may result in it poking out near the back of your mouth sometimes, irritating your cheeks or gums. The eraser end of the pencil or a clean cotton swab can be used to gently move it back to where it’s supposed to be.

Likewise, wires or ties that have moved can often be gently manipulated back into place using a pair of clean tweezers or the eraser end of a pencil. A pinch of orthodontic wax over the parts that are poking out can help relieve the immediate discomfort, too.

Tooth pain or loosening

It’s natural for your teeth to loosen slightly during orthodontic treatment, even though it may feel a little weird at first! You may experience a small amount of tenderness or discomfort from time to time because of this. Salt water rinses are a tried and true way to relieve oral soreness! Simply mix one teaspoon of salt in 8 ounces of warm water, then swish it around your mouth for about 30 seconds before spitting it out. A warm washcloth or heating pad placed on the outside of your jaw can offer some relief as well.

Maintaining Your Orthodontic Treatment From Home

What about Invisalign patients?

Since Invisalign aligners aren’t constructed with wires and brackets, they’re pretty low maintenance in general. That doesn’t mean you’re completely off the hook if you wear aligners, though! To keep your treatment progressing on track, you should adhere to the following recommendations. 

  • Make sure to use your chewies as prescribed. Bite and hold them to seat the aligners in any area where there is visible space between your tooth and the aligner. For the best results, bite into your chewie for about 10 seconds and then work it around your teeth, lightly biting and holding for a 10-minute session.
  • Continue to wear your aligners for 20-22 hours each day. If you run out of aligners and can’t continue to the next in the series, you can use your last one for a bit longer by switching to “retainer time”—that means keeping it in for 10-12 hours each day so your teeth can maintain their current position.
  • Keep your aligners clean by brushing them gently. You can use a soft toothbrush to gently brush them, or purchase a product like Retainer Brite online instead. Avoid all drinks other than water while wearing them. 
  • Always keep your aligners in their case when they’re not in your mouth. 
  • Remember to wash your hands before placing and removing your aligners or elastics. 
  • If you lose or damage an aligner, let us know as soon as possible so we can keep your treatment on track. 
  • Practice excellent oral hygiene by brushing twice a day for two minutes each time and flossing every night before bed. 
  • When our office reopens, we’ll schedule an appointment for you to pick up new aligners if they’re needed. 

Szymanowski Orthodontics is still here for you

Although our office is currently closed, Dr. Szymanowski is still available to meet your orthodontic needs. Our team remains committed to providing you with a safe and stress-free experience, even in these unpredictable times!

If you’re feeling nervous about any aspect of your orthodontic treatment during this time, get in touch. We’ll be happy to answer questions or address any concerns with a virtual visit, call, or text. While this is a period of adjustment for us all, it’s our goal to keep a smile on your face!