There’s more to do during orthodontic treatment than wait around for your teeth to straighten.

While wearing braces can help you obtain the cosmetic and functional benefits of perfectly aligned teeth, taking an active role in your orthodontic treatment can improve your chances of achieving the results you desire.

Whether you use traditional metal bracesDamon Clear® braces, or Invisalign® clear aligners, you’ll be wearing your braces according to an individualized orthodontic treatment plan. Following your orthodontist’s instructions for taking care of your braces can support and potentially speed up your treatment plan. However, your failure to follow directions could prolong your treatment and even ruin any progress you make.

In this blog, orthodontist Emanuel Mizrahi, DDS, of Forest Hills Orthodontic Associates in Forest Hills, New York, discusses five ways that you can make the most of your braces and ensure that your orthodontic treatment delivers optimal results.

1. Practice good oral hygiene

While you may feel that your teeth aren’t vulnerable to cavities when you’re wearing braces, that’s not the case. In fact, wearing braces increases your risk of developing decay and plaque.

The bands and brackets of metal braces can make it easy for food particles to hide and remain in place, where they can cause tooth decay over time. To combat this, it may be beneficial to use an electric toothbrush, because its circular motion is usually able to clean around brackets more effectively than a manual toothbrush.

Wearing clear aligners also makes you vulnerable to developing cavities. When you remove your aligners to eat, it’s important to brush before returning the trays to your mouth. Reinserting the trays without brushing can trap food particles and bacteria against your teeth and increase your risk of developing cavities.

Visiting your dentist for regular cleanings is also necessary. A professional dental cleaning can remove plaque buildup before it causes tooth decay or gum disease.

2. Avoid certain kinds of foods

While it can be frustrating, it’s important to avoid the foods that are most likely to harm or break your braces. Foods that are hard, gooey, crunchy, or sticky can damage bands and wires. They can even pull a bracket away from a tooth.

Examples of foods to avoid include:

  • Chewing gum
  • Hard or chewy candy
  • Popcorn
  • Nuts
  • Bagels, pizza crust, and other hard breads
  • Pretzels
  • Corn on the cob
  • Apples

And, while you’ll have more freedom to eat what you choose if you use clear aligners, you should still avoid sugary foods and drinks, because these items can cause plaque and decay.

Furthermore, you shouldn’t chew on nonfood objects, such as pencils, toothpicks, or anything else that’s not food, because they can damage any type of appliance.

3. Maintain at-home care

Following the recommended at-home care instructions can help your appliances do their job and support your orthodontic treatment.

If you have clear aligners, change your aligner trays at the intervals recommended. Aligners work by moving your teeth gradually to a certain point. You then change the aligners to move them to the next step. If you don’t follow the prescribed timeline, you can risk interfering with your treatment timeline and outcomes.

When it comes to braces, monitor them for any issues. And, if you spot one — such as a broken wire or damaged bracket — don’t try to fix it on your own. Instead, call our office immediately for an appointment so we can make the necessary repairs and prevent problems that could lengthen your treatment time.

4. Attend all scheduled appointments

While it may seem like a nuisance to maintain a schedule of office visits, these appointments are critical to ensuring that your treatment moves along as planned.

Metal braces use the archwire to put pressure on your teeth and jawline. During office visits, your archwire is adjusted as your teeth move into alignment. The elastic bands are replaced with new ones as the old bands lose their strength and effectiveness.

If you have clear aligners, your office visits are still necessary to check on your progress. At some office visits, you’ll receive a new set of aligners to continue your treatment.

5. Follow instructions

Brackets and aligners are devices that work best when used as directed in your individualized treatment plan. You must follow the directions for the best possible outcome.

If you have to use elastic bands or headgear, it’s important to wear them as instructed. While it may take some time to adjust to wearing these extra devices, they help move the straightening process forward.

If you have clear aligners, wear them for at least 20-22 hours a day to remain on track with your treatment timeline. Wearing your aligners all day helps your teeth move to the next positions, so they’re in place when it’s time to change to the new set of aligners.

To find out more about braces and the ways you can make the most of your treatment, call 347-384-9199 to book an appointment with Forest Hills Orthodontic Associates today.