The last several weeks have been a period of adjustment for all of us as we try to get used to the “new normal” of working and learning from home. In line with expert guidelines, mandated closures, and stay-at-home orders, we’re doing our part here at Westfall Orthodontics by keeping our offices closed except for emergency visits. This has had many of our patients concerned about what that may mean for their orthodontic journey. If you’re a current patient who’s been worried about this unexpected interruption to your treatment plan, we understand and we want you to know that our team is still here for you!
Even though our offices are temporarily closed, we’re still able to meet your orthodontic needs. Thanks to technology, we can connect with patients through phone calls, text, emails, and now virtual visits! Fortunately, there are many things you can also do on your own to maintain your treatment from home during this time. Let’s take a closer look at a few of the ways you can keep your smile healthy and your treatment on track until we can safely reopen.
Get back to the basics of oral hygiene
It’s no secret that good dental hygiene should be a priority for all of us. However, it’s even more important for active orthodontic patients. A healthy mouth is a must for moving teeth successfully! If you neglect your teeth and gums during treatment, it can lengthen the amount of time you need to be in braces or aligners and even lead to subpar results.
The first step in your oral hygiene routine should be brushing. Using a soft toothbrush and fluoridated toothpaste,make sure to thoroughly clean all three surfaces of the teeth—outer, inner, and chewing. If you wear braces, you’ll need to pay special attention to the various nooks and crannies. Bits of food can get stuck between the brackets and gums, and it’s easy for plaque to grow around the wires and teeth, too. If you’re finding it difficult to clean them effectively , an interdental brush or waterpik can help get into those hard to reach areas.
We recommend that all of our patients brush at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, for at least two minutes each time. And don’t forget about flossing! This is another essential part of maintaining your oral health. Some people have a hard time flossing with braces, so try threaders or waterpiks to if that’s the case for you. Just remember that these are supplemental tools—they shouldn’t ever take the place of a regular brushing and flossing routine.
Pay attention to what you’re putting in your mouth
As important as brushing and flossing is, what you choose to put in your mouth matters, too. As frustrating as food restrictions can be for braces patients, they’re in place for a reason. Crunchy and chewy foods are notoriously bad for braces, and are known for bending brackets and warping wires. To avoid any unnecessary complications with your treatment, you should steer clear of the following items throughout your orthodontic journey:
- some raw fruits and veggies
- tough cuts of meat
- several types of candy
Additionally, break any hard, crusty bread into bite-sized pieces and remove corn from the cob before eating. Keep pens, pencils, and fingernails out of your mouth, too.
We know how annoying it can be to have to skip some of your favorite meals and snacks, but just remember that this part is only temporary. All your hard work now will more than pay off once we remove your braces and you see your new smile for the first time!
Treating non-emergencies from home
First things first: what is an orthodontic emergency? Many patients just aren’t sure how to tell the difference between a true emergency and something that can be treated from home or via a virtual visit. Generally speaking, we define real orthodontic emergencies as any that includes:
- serious injury or trauma to the face, neck, mouth, teeth, or gums
- swelling, infection, or bleeding of the gums or mouth
- severe pain or discomfort in your teeth, mouth, face, or neck
If you experience any of these symptoms, please contact us right away so we can advise you on how you should proceed! Fortunately, these kinds of emergencies are rare. Most minor orthodontic issues can be treated at home, and the following remedies can be very effective at lessening or relieving your symptoms.
Orthodontic treatment doesn’t cause mouth sores in and of itself, but some patients do seem to be more susceptible to getting them while they’re in braces. If you’re dealing with a painful sore on your cheeks, lips, tongue, or gums, you can get some relief by swabbing a small amount of topical anesthetic directly to the sore.
Loose or broken brackets, bands, or wires
If any part of your braces comes loose or breaks during treatment, let us know as soon as possible so we can determine what your next steps should be. If a band or bracket is broken but still attached to the wire, try to leave it alone until you speak with us, and don’t connect any elastics to it during this time.
If any piece of your braces has completely broken off, place it in a secure bag and we’ll advise you on what to do. If you’re experiencing irritation, you can cover the component that’s bothering you with a small amount of orthodontic wax for relief.
Misplaced archwire, bracket, or tie
As your teeth begin moving towards the desired positions, you may find the wire connecting them shifts a bit as well. This may result in it poking out near the back of your mouth sometimes, irritating your cheeks or gums. The eraser end of the pencil or a clean cotton swab can be used to gently move it back to where it’s supposed to be.
Likewise, wires or ties that have moved can often be gently manipulated back into place using a pair of clean tweezers or the eraser end of a pencil. A pinch of orthodontic wax over the parts that are poking out can help relieve the immediate discomfort, too.
Tooth pain or loosening
It’s natural for your teeth to loosen slightly during orthodontic treatment, even though it may be a little disconcerting at first! You may experience a small amount of tenderness or discomfort from time to time as this occurs. Salt water rinses are a tried and true way to relieve oral soreness. Simply mix one teaspoon of salt in 8 ounces of warm water, then swish it around your mouth for about 30 seconds before spitting it out. A warm washcloth or heating pad placed on the outside of your jaw can offer some relief as well.
A note for our Invisalign patients
Because the Invisalign system uses removable trays instead of brackets, bands, and wires, they tend to be pretty low maintenance in general. There are still several things you should be doing to keep your treatment progressing on track during this time, however.
- Continue to wear your aligners for 20-22 hours each day. If you run out of aligners and can’t continue to the next in the series, you can use your last one for a bit longer by switching to “retainer time”—that means keeping it in for 10-12 hours each day so your teeth can maintain their current position.
- Keep your aligners clean by brushing them gently. You can use a soft toothbrush to gently brush them, or purchase a product like Retainer Brite online instead. Avoid all drinks other than water while wearing them.
- Always keep your aligners in their case when they’re not in your mouth.
- Remember to wash your hands before placing and removing your aligners or elastics.
- If you lose or damage an aligner, let us know as soon as possible so we can keep your treatment running smoothly.
- Practice excellent oral hygiene by brushing twice a day for two minutes each time and flossing every night before bed.
- When our office reopens, we’ll schedule an appointment for you to pick up new aligners if they’re needed.
Westfall Orthodontics is here for you and your smile
Even with our offices temporarily closed, Dr. Westfall and the rest of our team are committed to providing you with a safe and stress-free orthodontic experience. If you’ve got questions or concerns about any aspect of your orthodontic treatment during this time, please feel free to get in touch. We’ll be happy to talk you through them! Hopefully we’ll be able to reopen soon and see your smiling face in person, but until then, stay safe and keep your smile healthy using the tips we’ve outlined above!