Having braces is a right of passage for many. It can take some adjusting to, but you want to make the experience as comfortable as possible. Fortunately, learning how to floss with braces can make those few years a little easier to bear.
It may seem impossible. There’s wires and brackets and metal everywhere. Maybe there’s rubber bands or even headgear to deal with.
Thankfully, there are some decent and inexpensive tools out there to make flossing with braces a breeze.
You Can’t Stop Flossing Because of Braces
Just because part of your tooth has a shiny metal bracket doesn’t mean you can slack on dental hygiene. In fact, getting braces is exactly why you need to brush and floss more often (and do a better job!).
You’ve probably noticed that the brackets stick out from your teeth. While the brackets are shaped like that to make everything work, it’s this very shape that gives food and plaque a nice place to hang out and rot your teeth.
It’s gross, I know. Because of the bracket’s shape, you’re essentially giving food and plaque a “shelf” to sit on.
If you don’t brush and floss carefully (and regularly) while you have braces, all of that debris will damage your teeth and gums, increasing your risk of gingivitis and cavities. Plus, all that food hanging out in your braces can give you bad breath.
How to Floss with Braces
Dentists recommend that you floss once a day when you don’t have braces. Fortunately, they also recommend that you floss once a day with braces.
While there aren’t a lot of options when it comes to flossing with braces, that doesn’t mean you can skip it.
How to floss with braces using dental floss
It is possible to learn how to floss with braces using regular old dental floss. No fancy tools required! Just make sure you use waxed dental floss. Unwaxed floss can get caught in your braces and shred.
You’ll need a mirror for this technique. And, while you could use a regular mirror, you may want to consider one that’s magnified when you’re learning how to floss with braces. It will make it easier to see what you’re doing.
Grab some floss
Start with about 18 to 24 inches of waxed dental floss.
Start under the wire
Take one end of the dental floss and thread it under the wire, so it’s by your teeth. It’s kind of like you’re threading a needle. The floss is the thread, and the gap between your wire and teeth is the eye of the needle.
Push the floss up or down until it’s past the wire and you can grab it easily. Make sure the floss is far enough past the wire that you don’t need to struggle to grab it.
Grab an end
Grasp each end of the dental floss and floss your teeth like normal.
Make sure you're gentle and careful while you floss, though. Any sudden pulling movement (especially away from your teeth) and you could pull a bracket off!
When you’re done flossing that space, gently pull the floss out from behind the wire and move to the next space. Repeat until you’ve flossed every space.
Don’t get frustrated with this technique. It takes time and patience to master it. And, once you do, you’ll still need to allow about 15 minutes every time you floss.
How to floss with braces using a threader
f you’ve tried flossing with traditional floss and can’t get the hang of it, add a floss threader.
A floss threader is, quite literally, a sewing needle for your teeth. Don’t worry. It’s not a real needle. It’s actually a thin piece of plastic that has a loop (like the eye of a needle but larger) on one end to hold the floss, and a plastic “needle” (a thin plastic stick that’s very flexible and soft) on the other.
The threader makes it easier to get the floss under the wire. At that point, once you’ve “threaded” your teeth, floss as usual.
“Thread” your “needle”
Take the dental floss and guide it through the loop. Thread it like you would a needle.
Don’t double up your floss. And make sure you leave enough “loose” so when you’ve threaded your teeth, you’ll be able to grab each side of the floss with one hand.
Sew it up
Guide the “needle” behind the wire, not through your teeth. Grab the top end of the “needle” and “sew” it through the gap between your teeth and the wire.
Make a “stitch”
Once the loop is through, pull the dental floss out of the loop and floss like usual. You can leave the floss threaded through the loop if you prefer.
When you’re done, carefully pull the floss from between your wire and teeth. Then repeat all the way around your mouth.
An alternative to a separate threader is a pre-threaded flosser. The “needle” is attached directly to the floss, so there’s no need to thread the loop every time you floss (or if it falls out while you’re using it). Use it the same way as the other threader.
Just keep in mind that both types of these flossers are single-use flossers. Don’t ever reuse them, even if you wash them off. They could spread bacteria to other parts of your mouth.
Oral irrigators can be an easier, faster way to floss with braces. Using the power of sprayed water, you can blast away food and plaque around braces and between teeth.
How to floss with braces using water flossers
Fill the reservoir with water.
Lean over the sink. From experience, I will tell you; this is probably the most important step in the process.
Aim it right
Placing the tip of the flosser in your mouth comes first. Depending on your model of water flosser, there might be a special tip specific for braces.
And yes, you aim the flosser before you turn it on. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a face full of water!
Don’t aim the tip straight at your teeth or braces. You want to do it at an angle. The idea is to get the water to shoot in such a way, so it washes debris away down the sink -- not into your face or back into your mouth.
Hit the “on” switch and the water will start spraying on to your teeth. Work your way around your whole mouth until your teeth are fresh and clean!
Most water flossers have different pressure settings, so start with a lower setting and work your way up until you find a pressure that’s comfortable and effective.
And, make sure you’re leaning over the sink the whole time you water floss. As you spray, your mouth will quickly fill with water and, just as quickly, it will come out of your mouth. That’s why you’re leaning over the sink -- so that the water drains into the sink, not onto your shirt.
Clean it up
When you’re done, empty the reservoir then run the flosser into the sink until it’s empty. You don’t want to leave stagnant water in the flosser.
It takes a few tries to get the hang of this flossing method. You will get wet, and so will the bathroom mirror. But once you mastered the art of water flossing, you might find this is the best way to floss with braces.
Bonus Tip: Brush Better
Trying to teach a kid (or adult) how to floss with braces is like trying to herd cats! It's nearly impossible to do and not a fun activity for anybody involved.
Many will brush (kind of) but want to skip the flossing step because it takes a lot of time and patience.
One thing that might help is if you get the brace wearer to understand that they can cut back on floss time if they spend more time brushing.
Sure, it’s a pain to brush with braces. You need a special toothbrush, you’ve got to brush carefully around the brackets, and there’s always some bit of food hiding in the back that seems impossible to get out.
However, when you’ve got braces, orthodontists and dentists recommend that you brush three times a day. It’s not just to protect your teeth; it helps make flossing easier. How?
Taking the time to brush carefully means you’ve done most of the hard work of removing food from your braces. That, in turn, means less to floss!
Bonus bonus tip: Get a new toothbrush
While you don’t need a lot of fancy equipment to take care of your teeth when you’re wearing braces, you may want to consider getting an electric toothbrush.
It takes time to brush when you’ve got braces. And for most kids (and maybe some adults), it’s just too much and really doesn’t happen as it should.
Brushing with an electric toothbrush can be more effective than a manual toothbrush since it can move faster than a manual brush. That may be a steep investment for some; it’s not entirely necessary but is something to consider.
Em'brace' That Shiny Smile
Having braces isn’t fun (I know!), but it is an important part of maintaining your overall (and long term) dental health. Learning how to floss with braces is an integral part of that goal. Healthy teeth contribute to a healthy life.
Regular brushing and flossing are essential for your teeth whether or not you have braces. But, it’s even more important with braces.
You don’t want to smile and have everyone know what you had for lunch! Keeping your braces clean with proper brushing and flossing will help give you the confidence you need to smile bright whether you’ve got braces or not.
Do you have any tips or tricks for flossing with braces? Share them in the comments below!
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