Imagine someone offered to make keeping your teeth clean much, much easier for the rest of your life. In exchange, however, all the pain and discomfort you’d have experienced in that time gets packed into a period just two years long. That’s basically the deal you’re making with braces.
Braces aren’t just uncomfortable; they actually make it much more likely you’ll develop cavities or gingivitis. For most people, the trade-off is worth it, as long as you remember to brush, floss, and keep your teeth clean.
Braces can increase your chances of cavities and gingivitis.
Flossing can prevent those problems.
Flossing is a pain with braces.
There are tools that can help, like threaders, picks, and water flossers.
Floss at least once a day.
Aligners make the whole process easier.
You should absolutely be flossing with braces. Really, everyone should floss regardless of their orthodontic treatment status. It’s an important, if often neglected, aspect of good oral hygiene.
However, it’s particularly critical if you are wearing braces. Due to how braces work, your smile will be healthier when they come off, but orthodontic treatment will actually increase the odds of developing cavities  . It’s not hard to improve your chances, though, as all it takes is a little dental floss, a bit of wax-covered thread. Moreover, if traditional flossing isn’t your thing, there are all sorts of other options.
Most people will run into two problems during the orthodontic process: tooth decay and gum disease. Both are caused by similar issues, food particles that feed bacteria so that they form plaque, a sticky film on your teeth .
Orthodontic appliances take up a lot of room in the mouth, which makes traditional brushing less effective. It’s harder to move the brush around and remove plaque and food particles. Plaque buildup, which is essentially a mass of bacteria, is obviously not very healthy.
On soft tissue, like along your gum line, plaque buildup can lead to gingivitis. Most of us have heard the word on mouthwash commercials if nothing else. In reality, it can become a serious condition that can destroy teeth, gums, and even bone if left untreated .
Plaque can also destroy the protective enamel coating on your teeth, leading to tooth decay and eventually cavities . In fact, having braces or another orthodontic appliance greatly increases your chances of developing one of these oral health problems.
No one likes going to the dentist, but everyone can have healthy teeth. While the stats might be dire, there’s a lot you can do to tip those odds back in your favor. The majority of oral health problems are the result of insufficient brushing and cleaning teeth. If you’re wondering, “How do braces work,” they don’t actually help with those issues. Instead, you have to put a little more effort in.
Flossing your braces will require a fair amount of time each day. It involves fiddling a piece of floss between each of the brackets and wires and cleaning the spaces out thoroughly. There are a number of tools that can help make things easier. Just remember that a little time now means saving a trip to the dentist later.
Flossing with braces, in general, is kind of a pain, but it’s particularly troublesome to floss your back teeth. Those are the teeth that are the most neglected, however, and therefore the ones most likely to have plaque build up that should be removed.
Mostly, this requires patience. Using normal floss is doable, though waxed floss will probably be less challenging. It’s stiffer, so it’s easier to handle and will slide between teeth and metal more easily. The same would be true of dental tape.
Use a piece of floss about 12 to 18 inches long. You’ll have to carefully thread the floss between the archwire and then place it between one tooth and another. (Check out our rundown on how braces work if you’re not sure what an archwire is).
Wrap the ends around your index fingers and floss gently in circular motions, cleaning the space between the teeth, and the teeth and the wire, to remove plaque.
A floss threader can make your life a lot easier, but they’re not always available. As we’ve already described, take a piece of floss and carefully thread it between teeth and metal brackets. Waxed floss is better than unwaxed floss for this option. Be thorough and make sure to remove food debris.
Floss threaders are sort of like a plastic needle with a really large eye. Take your piece of floss and thread it through the eye, leaving at least 5 inches on one side. You can then poke the thin end of the floss threader between your braces.
After that, you move the floss gently around to clean your teeth. This process has to be repeated, running a floss threader through the gap between every two teeth and between the gaps in your braces.
Floss picks are also sort of like a plastic needle, though instead of a big like a threader, there is an arc holding a stretched piece of floss. These can be much easier to use, as the thin end can be used to clean out some spaces without the trouble of threading floss each time.
Be sure to clean each space thoroughly and use the floss side to clean between your teeth.
Traditional floss is an important tool for preventing dental problems, but it’s also time-consuming and potentially painful, so a lot of people do their best to avoid it. Using a water jet is much more pleasant. More technically known as an oral irrigator, a water flosser shoots a pressurized stream of water that can be used to clean between your teeth and braces.
Water flossers get rid of a lot of the fiddliness of using floss and generally, perhaps even more effectively than floss .
This branded tool is very similar to a regular floss pick. There is a plastic pick on one end, and on the other, the plastic has a C-shape with a piece of floss strung across it. One branch of the C is thin enough to slide under the archwire. That allows you to run floss between one tooth and the next tooth without having to thread anything.
For healthy teeth, you should floss at least once each day . While you certainly can floss more often, there isn’t much more benefit to be gained from flossing more frequently.
Flossing with braces can be difficult and laborious, but there are a few ways to make things easier on yourself:
Clear aligners are much easier to clean than traditional braces . It’s a much simpler process for one reason: you can take aligners out. Once they’re removed, you can brush and floss as you would normally, while cleaning the aligner separately.
Clear aligners have been around for a while, but they’ve become much more popular lately. While they were once nearly as expensive as braces, companies like Byte allow you to order from home, without needing to see a dentist.
There are a few different options. Byte is an affordable option that uses high-tech vibration tools to speed the process of moving your teeth up. AlignerCo is less expensive, but the treatment takes longer. Compare them with our Byte Aligner review and AlignerCo review.
Compare the benefits and disadvantages of clear aligners to braces, so you can decide what’s the best choice for you.
If all that up there is too long to read, here are a few brief highlights.
Braces end up acting as a barrier between you and your teeth. The brackets and wires create a bunch of nooks and crannies where food can be caught, leading to a buildup of plaque.
The easiest way to floss is probably with a water flosser as you sidestep all the threading of floss you need to do otherwise.
You can, but make sure it’s waxed floss. Unwaxed floss will likely get caught in the brackets and shred to pieces. Dental tape, floss picks, or water jets are also good options.
Flossing is always important, but it’s critical when you’ve got braces. You don’t want to put up with hard work and inconvenience just to have to go back to the dentist immediately for a cavity. That may be where you end up, though, if you don’t take care of your teeth.