Getting braces means you’ll have straight, even teeth in a few years, but it also means that brushing and flossing just got harder. Cleaning teeth with braces is a bit trickier than it was before. You have wires and brackets in the way of a good brushing, and sometimes rubber bands and head gear. Bad brushing habits are responsible for what’s known as “braces breath” and can cause cavities and permanent teeth stains later on.

Now that you’re getting braces, it’s more important than ever to keep those teeth clean and sparkly. It’s so easy for particles of food to stick on wires, brackets, and in between your teeth. This can lead to embarrassing situations (when you realize you’ve been talking to your crush with food stuck in your teeth) and can give you really bad breath! It can also cause tooth decay, stained teeth, and painful, swollen gums.

When your braces come off, you want beautiful, stain-free teeth. Here are five key tips on keeping your teeth clean while wearing braces.

One Tooth at a Time

Brush each tooth individually, all around the tooth, front, sides, and back. Pay special attention to spots where food can get trapped. Get those bristles moving around everywhere you can, including in between teeth (if possible).

Pack a Toothbrush Everywhere for Cleaning Teeth with Braces

Carry toothbrush, floss, and toothpaste wherever you go. Keep it in your backpack, workbag, lunch box, or purse so you can brush after every meal. If you want something low profile, carry around a few Wisp Mini toothbrushes or similar disposable toothbrushes perfect for single use. These small, individually packaged toothbrushes have a dot of toothpaste already on them and don’t require water and rinsing, so they’re perfect on the go. They fit easily into a pocket, since they’re about the same size as a tube of lip balm.

Floss to Keep Your Teeth Clean

Flossing with braces takes some getting used to, there’s no denying it. Anyone who tells you that it’s just as easy to floss without braces as with braces either hasn’t ever had braces, never flossed when they had braces, or they have hyper accurate weaving skills and enjoy a good challenge. However, flossing is the most important thing you can do to protect your teeth from cavities while wearing braces. Get a dental floss that works for you — many people find it easier to use a floss threader while they’re wearing braces. Other people use regular floss just fine. It depends partly on how tight your wires are. A Waterpik can also be useful, although you can’t use it as a substitute for regular flossing.

Use a Fluoride Mouthwash

If you want to get rid of braces breath, and you’re keeping your teeth clean and flossed already, then mouthwash might be the key. Mouthwash really helps kill bacteria stuck on brackets or in between teeth. Get a good fluoride mouthwash (the fluoride will help prevent tooth decay) and use it twice a day for a healthy smile.

Don’t Let Your Dentist Become a Stranger

Going in to the orthodontist may feel like a substitute for regular dental cleanings, but it’s not. During orthodontic treatment, it’s more important than ever to clean your teeth professionally every six months by your regular dentist.

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