Flossing with braces is a vital step in your daily oral hygiene routine. But you may not realize why this is so important: Flossing removes hard-to-reach food debris and plaque between teeth and along the gumline. And with braces, you have many more places for that food, plaque, and bacteria to hide!
When you don’t floss regularly—particularly with braces—this can lead to cavities and gum disease. In fact, flossing is so important that NOT flossing is responsible for approximately 40% of plaque removal.
And there’s another point to flossing with braces: The movement of your teeth will be easier if your oral health is good. Neglect flossing, and you may be setting yourself up for more dental visits—and more expense—to correct issues.
The Basics of Flossing with Braces
We tell our patients to floss at least twice a day. However, it’s particularly important to floss at night to remove anything that could be stuck between teeth or around the braces. By flossing every night, you’ll get rid of anything that’s accumulated on your teeth and gums during the day.
As a note, it’s always better to floss before brushing. By doing this, you loosen and remove debris and bacteria from the tiny spaces in between your teeth and around your braces. Then, when you brush, you sweep this debris out of your mouth. By brushing first and flossing second, you won’t get the chance to get rid of the debris loosened by the floss. So, always floss first, brush second, and rinse third.
The Best Flossing Method for Braces
You can floss whichever way you prefer, of course, but we want to make sure you know the different flossing methods and which is most effective. You can floss the traditional way, with a floss threader, or with an orthodontic flosser.
Some patients prefer to floss the traditional way, much as they do without braces. If you choose this method, be sure to use waxed floss. Braces can easily shred unwaxed floss, which can then get stuck and potentially cause more bacteria and plaque to form. Here are the steps to floss with braces using the traditional method:
- Use a piece of waxed floss about 18 inches long.
- With one hand, thread one end of the floss between your archwire and teeth. Using the other hand, grab the end of the floss as it makes its way through the archwire.
- Wrap the ends of the floss around one finger on each hand and hold the floss taut.
- Guide the floss up and down the side of one tooth at a time. Make a c-shape at the base of the teeth to floss between the tooth and gum.
- Repeat this process using a clean section of floss for each set of teeth, until you’ve flossed all your teeth.
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A floss threader is a thin plastic loop used to floss with braces, a permanent retainer, or a bridge. As with traditional flossing, it’s important to use waxed floss when you’re flossing braces with a floss threader. Here are the steps:
- Break off a piece of waxed floss approximately 18 inches long.
- Put one end of the floss through the loop on the threader and pull about four to five inches of floss through.
- Place the pointed end of the threader under the archwire and pull the floss through so you can grip it with both hands.
- Wrap the floss around a finger on each hand and leave a few inches of floss between your teeth.
- Floss up and down the side of one tooth, making a c-shape on the base of each tooth.
- Repeat the process between each set of teeth, using a clean section of floss each time, until you’ve flossed all your teeth.
The orthodontic flosser is the easiest and fastest way to floss with braces. You only need one hand when flossing this way, and the flosser is comfortable to use. We recommend this type of flosser and will show you exactly how to use it when we first put your braces on. As an overview, here are the steps:
- Put the rounded end of your flosser under the archwire so that floss is positioned between two teeth.
- Glide it up and down the side of the first tooth and don’t forget to floss under the gumline.
- Repeat on the second tooth.
- Pull the flosser out carefully and place it in between the next set of teeth, until you’ve flossed all your teeth.
Using a Water Flosser
Some patients have asked if they can use a water flosser, such as a Waterpik, in place of flossing. While this can be effective, it doesn’t work as well as dental floss. We recommend flossing first, by one of the three methods outlined above, then using the water flosser after brushing.
Many brands of water flossers have orthodontic tips designed to use with braces. And these devices can be a great add-on for super clean teeth and gums! Here are the steps to use a Waterpik (or any brand of water flosser):
- Fill the reservoir with warm water and insert the flosser tip.
- Use the lowest pressure setting and place the tip in your mouth while you lean over the sink.
- Be sure to close your lips and allow the water to run out of your mouth directly into the sink.
- Start with the back teeth, aiming the flosser tip at your gums, and “brush” with the Waterpik in between the teeth and brackets.
- Repeat until you’ve completed your whole mouth, back to front.
No matter what technique you use to floss with braces, the most important thing is that you do it, consistently. And make sure to brush your teeth afterward and rinse thoroughly.
Take the extra care now, and you’ll have a beautiful smile for the rest of your life!
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