Life With Braces




Congratulations! You’ve taken a big step on the path to a perfect smile by getting braces put on. Braces take a little getting used to, but caring for them will become second nature to you before you know it! Here is some helpful information to shorten the learning curve.

Caring for Braces

Doing Your Part

While Dr. Peterson will do everything within his power to give you a beautiful smile, you also play a key part in your treatment plan. Keeping your teeth clean while wearing braces is essential in order to set yourself up for a successful orthodontic treatment.

Cleaning your teeth does take a little longer when wearing braces, but it is so important! Here is a helpful video which gives some tips on how to clean your teeth properly when wearing braces.

Problems Poor Oral Hygiene Can Cause

Plaque is the enemy. This sticky, colorless film collects on your teeth. If plaque is trapped around your brackets, it can cause cavities, swollen gums, and permanent marks on your teeth that we are working so hard to straighten!

Brushing thoroughly after each meal or snack is recommended in order to keep your teeth as clean as possible during treatment. It’s always a good idea to carry a travel toothbrush so you can brush away from home.

If you don’t properly clean your teeth when wearing braces, here are a few of the problems that can arise:

  • Plaque that is trapped around your braces can cause decalcification. This leaves permanent stains on your teeth that cannot be removed.
  • Periodontal disease can occur due to the build-up of plaque.
  • Over time, plaque buildup can harden into a substance called tartar. As tartar accumulates, your gums may start to gap in between your teeth. These gaps can collect more tartar which can lead to periodontitis.
  • Bone loss can occur as pockets of bacteria form beneath your gums. This can cause teeth to fall out, which is referred to as advanced periodontitis.

Oral Hygiene Tips

Using a toothbrush and floss together can help to keep oral hygiene healthy. Here are a few other tools you can use in conjunction with brushing and flossing to ensure your mouth is as healthy as possible:

  • Power Toothbrush or Waterpik – These devices are designed to make brushing easier and more efficient.
  • Prescription Flouride Toothpaste or Flouride Rinse – This can be done once a day if prescribed by Dr. Peterson.
  • Interproximal Brush – This tool slips under your archwire to help remove plaque and food particles near your brackets.

Braces Emergencies

We’ve listed the following orthodontic emergencies from least to most severe. Only the emergencies at the bottom of this list need immediate attention from Dr. Peterson. For all other emergencies, follow the home-treatment recommendations below and schedule an appointment to come and see us as soon as possible.


Food Caught In Between Teeth

This is not an emergency, but can be a little uncomfortable or embarrassing. It is easily fixed with a piece of dental floss. Try tying a small knot in the middle of the floss to help remove the food, or use an interproximal brush or toothpick to dislodge food caught between teeth and braces.

Ties Around Brackets Come Off

If a rubber tie around a bracket comes off, you may be able to put it back in place using sterile tweezers. If a wire tie comes loose, remove it with sterile tweezers. If the wire is sticking out into the lip but is not loose, it may be bent back down with a Q-tip or pencil eraser to eliminate the irritation.

When one tie pops off or breaks, others may follow. Missing or broken ties should be reported by calling our office during business hours.


It’s normal for a patient to have discomfort for a day or two after braces or retainers are adjusted. It can make eating uncomfortable, but discomfort is both normal and temporary. Eat soft foods and rinse your mouth with warm salt water. Acetaminophen or ibuprofen may be effective.

Mouth Sores

While braces do not cause mouth sores, they may be made worse by an irritation from braces. Sore areas on the cheeks, lips or tongue may appear. This is not an emergency, but may be very uncomfortable. Prompt relief may be achieved by applying a small amount of topical anesthetic (such as Orabase or Ora-Gel) directly to the sore using a cotton swab.

Irritation of Lips or Cheeks

Sometimes new braces can be irritating to the mouth, especially when you are eating. A small amount of non-medicinal relief wax makes an excellent buffer between metal and mouth. Simply pinch off a small piece and roll it into a ball the size of a small pea. Flatten the ball and place it completely over the area of the braces causing irritation. You may then eat lunch more comfortably. If the wax is accidentally ingested it’s not a problem; it is harmless.

Protruding Wire

Occasionally the end of a wire will work itself out of place and irritate your mouth. Use a Q-tip or pencil eraser to push the wire so that it is flat against the tooth. If the wire cannot be moved into a comfortable position, cover it with relief wax. (See Irritation of Cheeks or Lips above for instructions on applying relief wax.) Call our office during business hours if the irritation persists.

In a situation where the wire is extremely bothersome and the patient will not be able to see the orthodontist anytime soon, as a last resort, you may clip the wire.

Reduce the possibility of the student swallowing the snipped piece of wire by using folded tissue or gauze around the area. Use a pair of sharp clippers and snip off the protruding wire. Relief wax may still be necessary to provide comfort to the irritated area.

Loose Wires, Brackets or Bands

If the braces have come loose in any way, contact our office. We will likely schedule a time for you to see Dr. Peterson as soon as possible.

A Bracket is Knocked Off

Brackets are the parts of braces attached to teeth with a special adhesive. They are generally positioned in the center of each tooth. The bracket can be knocked off if you have eaten one of those hard or crunchy foods orthodontic patients are instructed to avoid, or if the mouth is struck while at play.

If the bracket is off center, the adhesive may have failed. Contact our office and we will likely schedule an appointment to see Dr. Peterson.

If the loose bracket has rotated and the wire is sticking out, and the patient cannot immediately be taken to the orthodontist, you can do a temporary fix to alleviate discomfort and prevent further damage. However, take care to prevent swallowing or other injury.

To put the bracket back in place, use sterile tweezers to slide the bracket along the wire until it is between two teeth. Rotate the bracket back to the proper position, then slide it back to the center of the tooth.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here at Peterson Family Orthodontics, we are happy to answer any questions that you have. If you can’t find the answer to a question below, call us or come in and we’d be happy to get you the answer you seek.
Why Select an Orthodontist?

Orthodontists are dental specialists who are trained extensively to diagnose, prevent and treat dental and facial irregularities. Orthodontists receive an additional 2-3 years of specialized education beyond that of a dentist in order to learn how to properly straighten and align teeth.

While some dentists offer some teeth straightening treatments, they cannot be called “orthodontists” without this extra formal education. Only orthodontists may be members of the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO), and Dr. Peterson is proud to have achieved this specialization and is an active member of the AAO.

When Should Children Get an Orthodontic Check-Up?

The AAO recommends that children get a check-up no later than age 7. Dr. Peterson is happy to see your child before then if you are concerned about their bite, misplaced teeth, or severe crowding.

For most children, braces start around ages 9 to 14.

Can Adults Get Orthodontic Treatment?

Absolutely! Adults can be candidates for wire or ceramic braces, or Invisalign depending on their case. Call for a complimentary consultation to see your treatment options.

How Long Does Treatment Take?

Every case is different, and the best thing to do is to come in and have Dr. Peterson give you an estimate. With that said, most people receive treatment for about 1 to 3 years.

How Much Does Treatment Cost?

No mouth is the same, which means that we will customize a treatment plan and cost based on your unique circumstances. Dr. Peterson will be glad to go over the different treatment options and their costs so you can make the best decision for you, your family, and your wallet.

What Causes Crooked Teeth?

Most of the orthodontic problems that people experience are inherited. Other issues can be caused by other situations and habits such as thumb or finger sucking, dental disease, accidents, or other causes.

Is Treatment Really Necessary?

While having a nice smile is definitely a plus, there are other serious issues that can be avoided or reduced by receiving orthodontic treatment. For example, the abnormal wearing of teeth can cause permanent damage and can be very costly at the dentist office if left untreated.

What Is My Role During Treatment?

Dr. Peterson is a rock star orthodontist, but even he can only do so much on his own. Keep your teeth clean, attend scheduled appointments, and maintain oral hygiene in order to achieve the best results. 

Do Wisdom Teeth Cause Teeth to Shift?

Research shows that wisdom teeth do not necessarily cause teeth to shift; however, removing wisdom teeth is typically recommended for health reasons other than orthodontics. 

How Long Should I Wear Retainers After Treatment?

Dr. Peterson will recommend how long you should wear your retainers after completing treatment. Teeth have the natural tendency to move after treatment. Wearing retainers the prescribed amount will help to keep your teeth straight and where they should be for the long-term.

Why do Teeth Shift?

After treatment, teeth continue to “settle in” as you use your teeth for chewing and biting. The best way to keep your teeth from shifting is by wearing your retainers as prescribed by Dr. Peterson.

What Should My Long-Term Expectation Be?

Your teeth naturally move, even if you’ve had orthodontic treatment. Some people’s teeth move more than others after treatment. Changes in tooth position are not a failure of orthodontic treatment, but are natural. The best way to keep your teeth from moving as you get older is by wearing your retainers the prescribed amount of time. If you still feel like your teeth are moving with regular retainer wear, come in and see us!

Can Retainers be Worn Too Long?

Nope. Retainers stabilize and preserve the alignment of teeth. Most people wear retainers nightly for the rest of their lives after completing treatment. 

Schedule your FREE consultation today!

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