Flossing with braces can be a pain, but oral hygiene is more important than ever during orthodontic treatment. Braces provide lots of hiding places for bacteria, so you need to do a thorough job of cleaning them.
Fortunately, with the right products and technique, you can soon master the art of cleaning properly between each tooth. Keep reading for our tips to make the process a bit easier.
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Why is flossing with braces important?
Our teeth are under constant attack from acid and bacteria in the food and drink we consume. Brushing twice a day and flossing daily, whether before or after brushing, is usually enough to keep teeth healthy.
However, braces create more surfaces for bacteria to cling to and more holes for food to get stuck in. They also make your normal teeth-cleaning routine more time-consuming. If you don't make the extra effort to maintain good oral hygiene, you're at risk of getting:
Once your teeth are properly aligned you should find it easier to keep your teeth clean. But while you're fixing the issue of your crooked teeth, make sure you're not creating even more problems for yourself.
How do you floss with braces?
The thing that prevents you from flossing the traditional way is the archwire – the wire that runs through each brace bracket to connect them all together. Dental floss gets stuck halfway down, so you need to thread the floss through each gap below the wire, too.
Trying to thread the flimsy floss through each hole can be pretty annoying and frustrating. Instead, you might choose to use an orthodontic floss threader to make the job easier. These needle-shaped devices have a stiffer point which makes it quicker and easier to get the floss into position.
See a floss threader being used on braces in the video below:
It doesn't really matter when you floss, as long as you include it in your routine at least once a day. You should also brush your teeth and braces twice a day.
Choosing the right orthodontic floss
Dental floss is available waxed or unwaxed and as single-strand (monofilament) or multi-strand (multifilament). You'll find that waxed monofilament floss glides more easily around your braces and is less likely to snag or get stuck.
You can buy dental floss for braces which is designed especially for use with orthodontic appliances. Oral B's Superfloss, for example, has the following features:
- Pre-cut strands
- One stiff end for easy threading under braces
- Part regular waxed floss
- Part thicker, spongy floss for easier cleaning of orthodontic appliances
“Recently got braces fitted and was spending way too long messing around with regular floss. Grabbed some of these and it makes the job much easier,” says one Amazon reviewer.
Helping children floss
Younger brace wearers may not have the dexterity – or the patience – to floss properly under their braces every day, so they need adult help. Many parents find it easiest to floss their children's teeth while they are watching TV because their head stays quite still. Make sure the area is well lit so you can see what you're doing.
Older children and teenagers shouldn't need any help flossing once they've got the hang of it. However, it's best for parents to supervise them now and again to make sure they're doing it properly.
Using a water flosser
If you or your child find it too difficult to use normal dental floss with braces, another option is an electric water flosser. Also called oral irrigators, these devices look a bit like electric toothbrushes but they emit a pressurized jet or pulse of water (and air, with some models) to clean between teeth.
Popular brands of water flosser include the Waterpik, Jetpik and Philips Airfloss. These are available in a number of different models with various features. Look for one with an adjustable power setting, especially if you'll be using it on your children's teeth.
This short animation shows how a water flosser can make the job of cleaning teeth with braces much easier:
The jury is out on whether an oral irrigator is good enough to use in place of regular floss since it doesn't have the same physical contact to scrape plaque off teeth. However, some studies have shown that water flossers are actually more effective than string floss.
Using an interdental brush
Again, if regular floss is too difficult to use, and if a water flosser doesn't appeal to you, you may want to try using an interdental brush. Interdental brushes look sort of like mini bottle cleaners—they've got a small handle and then a wire with bristles radiating out from it. Many dentists consider interdental brushes, when used once a day, an adequate or better substitute for flossing. You can read more about them in our interdental brush guide.
Ultimately, if the hassle of threading floss between your braces means you just don't bother, you might better switch to a water flosser or an interdental brush instead. These methods of flossing for braces are certainly better than not doing it at all, and indeed, in the case of interdental brushes can be just as good or better.