From an incorrect jaw position to speaking problems and difficulty talking or chewing, braces can do a lot to improve your oral health.
Braces do more than give you a straight smile, but unfortunately, they can also make it harder to brush and floss your teeth. However, it’s important to stay on top of your oral health routine when you have braces. Because your braces can trap food, sugars, and liquids after eating1, brushing and flossing helps you fight off cavities and keep your teeth healthy.
Although flossing can be particularly tricky with braces, there are luckily a few tricks and specialized products that can help you floss effectively. From using regular floss to using a water flosser, here are three tools to help you floss with braces.
1. Regular floss
Although flossing with your braces may be more difficult, it will help you dislodge food that may get trapped inside your braces and between teeth. When it’s finally time to get your braces off, you’ll enjoy shiny, cavity-free teeth.
Waxed floss is the easiest floss to use with braces. The wax layer on the strand helps the floss flow smoothly between the metal pieces of your braces. Unwaxed floss can get stuck, fray, or break.
How to use regular floss with braces
- Use a piece of floss about 12 to 18 inches long.
- Thread one end of the strand between your brace wire and your teeth with one hand. With your other hand, grasp the end of the floss as it comes through the other side.
- Once the floss is threaded through your brace wire, gently push one end of the floss between your teeth. Try to get the floss between your teeth without tugging on your braces to avoid discomfort or causing problems.
- Slide the floss back and forth between your teeth, working your way from your gums to the ends of your teeth.
- Carefully unthread the floss from your teeth by letting go of one end and pulling the other end until the strand is pulled all the way through. Repeat between each tooth.
Take your time and have patience when learning how to floss with braces for the first few times. With practice, you’ll be a pro at supporting a healthy, shiny smile.
2. Floss threaders
Floss threaders2 can make flossing easier when you have braces. Although the single-strand floss threaders can’t go around your braces to get between your teeth, threaders that have a loop of floss on the end of a stick can be a helpful tool for keeping your teeth clean when you have braces.
How to use a floss threader with braces
- Using the looped floss threader, insert the head of the loop into the gap between your teeth (if the gap is big enough)
- If it’s a tight fit, thread the loop between your braces wire and your teeth, then use a finger to gently push the floss between your two teeth
- Just like with ordinary floss, carefully pull the loop back and forth between your teeth to clean hard-to-reach spots.
- Repeat between each tooth
Although floss threaders tend to be slightly more expensive than regular dental floss, a looped floss threader allows you to work two strands of floss between your teeth at a time. This means you’ll get twice as thorough a cleaning in the same amount of time you'd spend using an ordinary thread of floss.
3. Water flosser
A water flosser3, sometimes referred to as an oral irrigator, is a dental tool that can help you easily remove plaque and bacteria buildup with your braces.
Water flossers use a water jet to gently clean the gaps between your teeth and spaces under your braces wire without irritating your gums. These may be easier to maneuver than regular floss, helping you keep your teeth clean while you wear braces.
Plus, since the water flosser uses a device that puts out a stream of water rather than a thread, you may be able to operate it with just one hand. This may be useful for people with mobility issues that want a clean mouth but have had trouble with traditional floss in the past.
How to use a water flosser
- Fill the water reservoir but be careful to not overfill
- Aim the water stream from the water flosser between your teeth
- Use the stream of water like floss to dislodge food and bacteria between your teeth and trapped beneath your braces wire
- Be sure to clean out the reservoir of your water flosser after each use to prevent bacteria buildup over time
Water flossers can make it easier to dislodge food particles from between your teeth without having to use floss. But water flossers are more expensive, and some studies show they are not as effective4 at getting rid of plaque buildup as regular floss.
Whether you use regular floss, a floss threader or a water flosser, the important thing is to floss every day.
Along with brushing twice a day and visiting your dentist and orthodontist for regular checkups, flossing will help you make sure your teeth shine when you finally get your braces off — a moment you’ve probably been waiting for since getting them on!
Do you have coverage for braces? Find out if dental insurance covers braces.