We’ve noticed that many people are concerned about tooth decay during and after orthodontic treatments. We thought we’d take the time to go through some of the most common questions in our latest blog post.
Is it safe to get braces while having cavities?
Before having braces your orthodontist will want to ensure that you have a healthy mouth, this is particularly true if you have fixed orthodontics. If you have fixed braces fitted while having cavities then it can be extremely difficult to treat those cavities as tooth structure may need to be removed.
Orthodontics is therefore usually only carried out on a healthy mouth, free of gum disease and for patients with good oral hygiene. A good dentist or orthodontist can help you achieve this.
How can cavities be prevented while having braces on?
The best way to do this is to ensure you have good oral hygiene prior to beginning your orthodontic treatment. Our top tips on preventing cavities whilst wearing braces are:
- Clean your teeth at least twice per day for 2 min each time with the fluoride toothpaste.
- Keep dental plaque at bay by cleaning in between your teeth with superfloss or an interdental brush/stick.
- Consider having a fluoride treatment at the dentist prior to having braces fitted.
- Continue to visit your dentist, they can then ensure that any early tooth decay problems are noticed.
- Let your dentist and orthodontist know any medical condition which you have, some conditions and treatments for those conditions can leave you more predisposed to dental cavities.
- If your dentist or orthodontist are particularly concerned, you may have particular deep valleys (fissures) in the costs of your back teeth then these can be filled with dental sealants such as composite resin. These can drastically lower the chance of cavities developing.
What happens if you don’t brush teeth while you have braces?
A variety of things can happen:
- The natural biofilm which is a sticky substance covering your teeth that everyone has will build up.
- As the biofilm builds up it tends to harden and form dental plaque.
- As the bacteria which hygienist plaque continue producing acid each time you eat or drink your teeth are subjected to attack.
- As the acid erodes the outer surface of your tooth enamel, more bacteria find places to hide.
- As the bacteria continue to produce the acid the dental cavity becomes larger and larger.
- When the cavity reaches the softer, inner dentine the speed of the decay increases.
- When the decay reaches the inner blood vessels and nerves of your tooth you will be in excruciating pain and need to see a dentist immediately.
- If left untreated this can ultimately lead to tooth loss!
The good news is that all of this is largely preventable… Just clean your teeth whilst you have braces!
Can braces cause a tooth to die?
Braces put a reasonable amount of force on the tooth, however this is monitored carefully by your orthodontist so braces should not cause teeth to die.
Can braces cause abscesses?
No, braces cannot cause abscesses. Abscesses are caused by a deep infection underneath the gum of your tooth, typically this infection takes hold due to poor oral hygiene. Can you see a theme appearing here? Good oral hygiene is key to getting the best from your braces.
Does wearing a retainer cause cavities?
It’s not the wearing a retainer that could cause cavities, it’s not keeping a retainer clean that could cause cavities. You should clean your teeth at least twice per day with a fluoride toothpaste, making sure you clean in between your teeth with floss or a brush.
You should also clean your retainer. The same biofilm which you clean off of your teeth also sticks to a retainer. If it’s not removed at the same time as cleaning your teeth then the biofilm can simply be transferred back onto your teeth, effectively as though you haven’t cleaned your teeth in the first place!
This biofilm can then form into plaque which can harbour bacteria and causes the cavities.
Does straightening of teeth make them weak?
There is no evidence to suggest that orthodontic teeth straightening makes teeth weak, so long as you follow the advice of your dentist and orthodontist by cleaning your teeth then your teeth will not be weakened.
The only thing that is slightly weaker after orthodontics is the position of your teeth, they have a natural tendency to want to return to their initial positions, this is why wearing a retainer is important.
Are my teeth getting worse with braces?
The easiest way to determine this is to speak to your orthodontist. Most orthodontists uses tracking software on their practice computers to track progress, you should be able to see a percentage chart showing how far you are through treatment.
Why do teeth become yellow after wearing braces?
Teeth can look a little bit yellow after wearing braces for a couple of reasons:
- You may have found it a little more difficult to clean your teeth with fixed braces, a visit to the hygienist should restore then natural whiteness.
- There may be some bonding resin which the orthodontist used to stick the brackets to your teeth still on the outer surface of your teeth. Again, a visit to the hygienist can help to remove any of this difficult to see composite resin.
- Your orthodontist will have had to etch the surface of your teeth in order to bond on the brackets, this can leave the teeth a little bit rough and more likely to pick up stains. If this is the case a quick polish by a dentist or hygienist will restore your teeth and remove any yellowing.
What foods can I not eat with braces?
If you have braces you should avoid foods which are particularly sticky chewy, these can pull off the brackets which can reduce the effectiveness of your braces.
Particularly sticky foods can also be very difficult to clean after eating, this can then leave them stuck in between your teeth enabling the bacteria to start the process of tooth decay.
Dr. Stefan Abela
BChD, MFDS, RCS Eng, MSc, MORTH RCS Ed, AHEA, FDS Orth RCS Ed
Stefan is a Consultant in Orthodontics at one of the most prestigious London teaching hospitals; Guy’s and St Thomas NHS Foundation Trust.
Stefan is also a specialist in Orthodontics and is registered on the General Dental Council (GDC) specialist list. Stefan qualified as a dental surgeon in 2003 and underwent further training in various specialties including restorative dentistry, paediatric dentistry, oral medicine and complex oral and maxillofacial surgery including the management of facial trauma.