As we all continue to adjust to the changes brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, many orthodontic patients have been worried about how this may affect their current treatment plan. If you’re a part of the Shaw Orthodontics family and have been feeling confused or uncertain about this interruption to your orthodontic journey, we’re here to help! We’ve put together a guide on maintaining your orthodontic treatment from home so that you can keep your treatment on track.
While we continue to practice social distancing, our team is still able to meet your orthodontic needs through virtual visits, phone calls, texts, and email. Not only that, but there are actually quite a few things you can do to maintain your treatment during this time! Let’s take a look at a few of the ways you can keep your smile healthy and your appliance safe until you’re able to come into the office for a visit.
Pay attention to what you’re eating
Food restrictions can be frustrating for many braces patients but they’re an essential part of protecting your teeth and your appliance. Crunchy and chewy foods can cause major damage to your braces by bending the brackets or warping the wires, and can also get lodged in all the nooks and crannies they create, giving plaque and bacteria a place to grow. Throughout the treatment process, you should avoid the following:
- some raw fruits and veggies
- tough cuts of meat
- several types of candy, including Jolly Ranchers and Snickers
Additionally, during this time we encourage you to take care to break crusty bread into bite-sized pieces and remove corn from the cob before eating. Keep pens, pencils, and fingernails away from your mouth, too!
We know it can be annoying to have to miss out on your favorite snacks, but just remember that this won’t last forever! Before you know it, we’ll be removing your braces and your hard work will be worth it when you see your new smile.
Maintain a good oral hygiene routine
While a good dental hygiene should be a priority for everyone, it’s essential for patients in orthodontic treatment. If you don’t take proper care of your teeth and gums during treatment, you could experience longer treatment times and subpar results. A healthy mouth is required to move the teeth successfully!
The first step in any dental hygiene routine should be effective brushing. For this, you’ll want to ensure you’re cleaning all three surfaces of the teeth.
Brush the outer surfaces at a 45-degree angle toward the gum line, and be sure to clean the area between your braces and gums especially well. Work on 3-4 teeth at a time, clearing them of any food and plaque before moving on the next set.
Maintain the same 45-degree angle when you begin brushing the inner surfaces of the teeth, and follow the same pattern of selecting a few at a time to focus on.
Cleaning the chewing surfaces of your teeth is pretty straightforward! Just be sure to take your time and pay attention as you go. If you wear braces, pay particular attention to the areas between the brackets and gums since food particles can get stuck there. Carefully clean between 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 stubborn plaque and food particles.
We recommend that all our patients brush at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, for at least two minutes each time. For the best results, brush after every meal and before you go to bed.
Don’t forget to floss every night before you go to sleep! This is an equally important part of maintaining your oral health. If you’re having trouble flossing with braces, threaders or waterpiks can be great tools. Just remember that these are supplemental tools, and shouldn’t take the place of a regular brushing and flossing routine.
How to treat non-emergencies from home
You might be shocked to find out that there are quite a few minor orthodontic issues you can treat from the comfort of your own home! These at-home remedies can be very effective at lessening your symptoms or relieving them entirely.
While orthodontic treatment itself doesn’t cause mouth sores, some patients can be more susceptible to getting them while they’re wearing 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 affected area.
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 treatment progresses and your teeth begin moving towards the desired positions, you may find the wire connecting them shifts as well. This may result in it poking out a bit near the back of your mouth, causing irritation to your cheeks or gums. You can use the eraser end of a pencil or a clean cotton swab 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 to accommodate the movements we want them to make. This can sometimes cause temporary tenderness or some mild discomfort. Saltwater 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.
True orthodontic emergencies
If you’re experiencing a true orthodontic emergency, please don’t hesitate to reach out! Dr. Shaw and the team at Shaw Orthodontics are here to help you with any issues that may arise. We’re committed to providing you with a safe and stress-free orthodontic experience, even amidst the current times.
Although school and community sports may be on a break at the moment, many athletes are continuing to practice their skills from home. Even if you’re just kicking a ball around in your backyard or hitting balls in an empty field, it’s always wise to keep your mouth protected. The easiest way to do that is by wearing a mouthguard!
Mouthguards are an incredibly easy and very effective way to protect damage to your teeth, gums, and braces while playing sports. It only takes a small amount of pressure on your braces to irritate your mouth or cause small cuts and abrasions to your gums and cheeks, but mouthguards will cushion your lips and prevent this from happening.
Over-the-counter models are available online, and these will give you the effective protection you need while meeting all your basic mouthguard needs. Dr. Shaw will also be happy to discuss an orthodontic mouthguard with you, which fits over braces and offers a customized fit for extra safety and assurance.
What about Invisalign patients?
Invisalign aligners don’t use the same wires and brackets as traditional metal braces, so they’re pretty low maintenance in general and the risk of orthodontic emergency is low. However, it’s still possible to lose or break an aligner! If you’re an Invisalign patient and this happens to you, contact our office so that we can keep your treatment progressing as planned. In the meantime, continue to practice excellent oral hygiene and be sure to care for your aligners as well. You can do this by keeping them clean and storing them somewhere safe and clean when you’re not wearing them.
Shaw Orthodontics is here for you
As you can see, there are many ways you can continue to care for your smile from home until you can make it into our office again! If you’re feeling nervous or unsure about any aspect of your orthodontic treatment during this time, get in touch! Whether it’s virtual, on the phone, or through email, our team is always happy to answer your questions. This is a period of adjustment for all of us, but it’s our goal to keep a smile on your face, even if we see it through a screen!