If you’ve just had your braces taken off, or you’re about to, congratulations! You’re at the end of a long, difficult process, but how you care for your teeth after braces is just as important as while you’re wearing them.

With proper post-orthodontic care, you can keep your teeth straight and healthy, and avoid some of the complications, like TMJ and gum recession, that can sometimes result from braces.

Keep reading to learn more!

Right After You Get Your Braces Off

The first couple of months after you get your braces off are key. Here’s what you can do:

Wear a Retainer

Invisalign retainerAs soon as your braces come off, your orthodontist will probably take impressions of your teeth and make you a retainer. Your retainer is responsible for holding your teeth in the beautifully straight position the braces left them in.

The weeks and months after your braces come off are the time when your teeth are in the biggest danger of moving. The last thing you want to do is see your teeth move back into a crooked position after months or years of diligently wearing braces! That’s why it’s so important to wear your retainer as often as your orthodontist tells you to.

You’ll probably wear it all the time for a while and eventually transition to wearing it only at night.

Get a Thorough Professional Cleaning and Exam

Even if you brushed and flossed extremely carefully the whole time, it’s nearly impossible to thoroughly clean everywhere with braces on. Chances are, the longer your braces have been on, the more plaque has built up on your teeth.

Right after your braces come off is the perfect time to schedule a dentist appointment for a dental cleaning and exam, so you can start your new braces-free life on the right foot: with beautiful, clean, stain-free teeth.

Consider a Professional Whitening

portland teeth whiteningBecause brushing and flossing with braces is so difficult, stains are practically inevitable. Many get excited about seeing perfect, straight teeth for the first time after braces, only to be disheartened by yellow or stained teeth.

If you’re getting your braces off soon, talk to your dentist about whitening options. At Blodgett Dental Care, we offer in-office teeth whitening, as well as several other teeth whitening options.

In-office whitening is the quickest, most effective way to a whiter, brighter smile.

It’s the perfect way to treat yourself after your braces come off!

Ongoing Care for Your Teeth After Braces

Braces are an investment in straight, beautiful teeth. Don’t waste it.

Even after your braces have been off for years, there are several steps you can take to maintain your results and keep your mouth healthy.

smiling couple

Wear Your Retainer and Keep it Clean

Wearing your retainer and cleaning it every day can start to feel like a chore. Just remember all those months you spent wearing braces and how hard you worked to get straight teeth.

Make wearing and cleaning your retainer a habit from day 1. Most retainers need to be cleaned twice a day if you’re wearing it all the time, or once a day if you’re just wearing it at night. I recommend brushing your retainer with toothpaste right after you brush your teeth, while you already have your toothbrush and toothpaste handy.

Prevent Complications from Braces

Unfortunately, braces can cause complications even years after you get them off, including:

  • Gum recession
  • TMJ

Let’s look at each one.

Gum Recession happens when the gum tissue right around your teeth wears away or gets pushed back, sometimes exposing the roots of your teeth. People who have had braces are much more likely to have receding gums than people who haven’t. In fact, I sometimes recommend that people with a family history of gum recession or gum disease avoid braces altogether.

After wearing braces, you can take steps to limit your risk of gum recession:

  • Brush gently with a soft bristle toothbrush
  • Wear your retainer as directed to avoid more movement
  • Avoid grinding or clenching your teeth

TMJ is a common name for temporomandibular joint disorders — problems with your jaw joint and the muscles around it. Braces exert powerful forces on your teeth and jaw, which can put stress on the joint and muscles. Common signs of TMJ include:

  • tmj jaw painJaw pain
  • Frequent headaches
  • Difficulty chewing
  • Clicking, popping, or locking of the jaw joint

To avoid TMJ after braces, the best things you can do are:

  • Try to keep your facial muscles relaxed
  • Avoid very chewy foods when possible
  • Wear your retainer as directed!

If you’re concerned about TMJ, ask your orthodontist about dental splint appliances. These are retainer-like appliances you can wear at night that keep your lower jaw in a healthy position.

At Blodgett Dental Care we use an appliance called the DNA Appliance. Not only is it more comfortable than traditional splint appliances, it helps keep your teeth straight and allows your airway to be fully open, so you can avoid sleep breathing problems like snoring and sleep apnea.

dna appliance

Keep Your Stress in Check

I’ll let you in on a little secret many dentists won’t tell you: your stress levels can have a significant effect on your dental health. Why? I’ll explain.

Stress isn’t inherently bad on its own. The problem is, stress can make you more likely to clench or grind your teeth — especially at night when you’re not even aware of it. Stress can also cause you to unconsciously clench the muscles around your jaw, which can affect how well the joint works.

The painful symptoms that result from all that grinding, clenching, and tensing can all be treated by a good dentist or orthodontist, but the best medicine is preventative dental care. That means treating the root cause of the problem, which for many people, is stress.

If you’re about to get your braces off, or you just recently had them removed (yay!), why not have a plan for maintaining your new, beautiful smile.

If you have questions about whitening options, the DNA Appliance, or just want a professional cleaning, get in touch. Let’s start your braces-free life!

Photos: Davisdentalcare via Wikimedia Commons