Combatting Tooth Decay with Braces - Hardy Pediatric Dentistry & Orthodontics

Combatting Tooth Decay with Braces

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Woman that is smiling as she is going to put a transparent orthodontic aligner in her mouth.

Getting braces is exciting for children, teens and adults. For children, it’s a time to correct bite and alignment problems. For teens and adults, they can shape their smile into something beautiful that will bring high levels of confidence. However, getting tooth decay during your time with braces can significantly damage your smile. Find out why you want to treat tooth decay before you get braces on your teeth and how we go about treating them if a child or adult gets cavities during their treatment!


Tooth Decay and Braces

Choosing to receive orthodontic care is a wonderful step towards better oral health. Not only can braces correct bite and alignment issues that can lead to speech impediments, but they can also help with future oral health diseases. Gum disease and cavities (tooth decay) are two oral health diseases that are the most chronic of all in Americans. Sugars in your food and drink mix with mouth bacteria to create acidic plaque, which coats your teeth and decays them. This condition leads to tooth loss and gum problems, even in children. However, tooth decay is preventable if you practice good oral hygiene and if you have a good diet. Straightening the teeth make them easier to clean and significantly reduce your risk for cavities and oral health diseases.


A transparent aligner that is sitting on a gray background.

What Can Make Dental Problems Worse?

Although braces help reduce the risk for cavities, you can get them easier during your orthodontic treatment because the teeth are harder to clean with brackets and wires. You want to avoid food choices that can increase your decay risk:

  • Carbonation: Most children should not be drinking soda or not often. Soda contains carbonic acid, which reacts with water to give drinks those fizzy bubbles. However, that acid erodes tooth enamel, breaking up the minerals. Teeth can thin out, become yellow or gray and can leave noticeable erosion when the braces come off. Because of thinning caused by erosion, tooth decay can happen much easier to weak teeth. Even sparkling water is a problem because of the carbonation.
  • Citrus: Citric drinks get their flavor and are preserved by citric acid. It has the same effect on your teeth, so avoid lemonade, citric drinks and citrus fruits. If you do ingest these items, wait 20-30 minutes to brush your teeth. Acids work on your teeth for that time to break up minerals. If you brush, you brush away even more minerals your teeth need.
  • Chewy Treats: Fruit snacks, gummies, gum, taffy, licorice, Starburst, dried fruit and any similar candies are sticky and are very hard to clean from braces. That means sugars sit on your teeth for long periods of time, decaying them.
  • Hard Candies/Mints. These expose your teeth to sugar for long amounts of time. That means more tooth decay.
  • Poor Oral Hygiene. The less you care for your teeth, the more tooth decay you will get. This is why it’s so important to monitor kids and teens with braces to make sure they are brushing and flossing well.


How Do You Care for Braces?

Braces can be tricky to clean. However, their design provides the best and quickest way for you to straighten your teeth, which is why traditional metal braces have been around for so many decades. Metal braces, ceramic braces and lingual braces all have a brackets-and-wires design.


Most children and teens have these braces and must be meticulous with cleaning them to avoid tooth decay and dental problems. Kids will be kids, and they will eat harmful foods and drinks that can damage and weaken their teeth. However, you can try to make up for that by helping them to brush, floss and to visit the dentist.


Follow these tips for cleaning your braces:

  • Brush after every single meal. This reduces staining and bacteria buildup. Use a regular soft-bristled brush and brush down from the top, then up from the bottom. Brush in all different directions to dislodge food.
  • Use a threadable floss or a floss threader. Both will require that you thread the floss through each space between your teeth. You will have to go under the wire to do this, and it will take slightly longer than normal flossing. This is one of the most important oral hygiene recommendations to follow!
  • Use helpful tools. A proxabrush is a small braces brush that can help unstick foods. It looks like a tiny Christmas Tree brush. A waterpik is also helpful. This is a tool that helps blast away food particles with a stream of water.


Close up view of a woman's mouth as she is about to put an Invisalign transparent aligner in her mouth.

Do You Have Decay?

Most patients have their braces on for 18 months. Depending on a child or teen’s bite and alignment, they may need more or less time with braces. It is much easier to get tooth decay when you have braces on the teeth, as the braces are hard to clean. It is very possible to avoid cavities altogether with the right care, but they do still happen. Because orthodontists have gone to dental school, they can spot the signs of tooth decay. If there is physical signs of decay at your orthodontic adjustment appointments, or if you start to feel a toothache or tooth pain, you should see your dentist.


Dental checkups should be done twice a year for all patients, no matter if you see an orthodontist often or not. If there is a cavity in your teeth, we work closely with dentists to remove your orthodontic appliance. However, Dr. Hardy is trained in both dentistry and orthodontics. You can always have your tooth decay fixed in-office and your orthodontic appliance fixed after the cavity filling. If you need a bracket or wire removed for your cavity filling, we can do this. The important thing is to avoid tooth decay as much as possible and to fix it when it is still small. For all your questions about cavities and braces and how to get your child started with braces, call Hardy Pediatric Dentistry & Orthodontics today at (720) 887-6003!