How Your Dentist Cleans Your Teeth During Braces

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How Your Dentist Cleans Your Teeth During Braces

braces Gilroy, CA

braces are a useful tool for orthodontic treatment, but they can cause challenges for oral hygiene. With brackets, wires and bands, the patient is often overwhelmed trying to remove plaque from all the hardware and sometimes finds that a toothbrush is an ineffective instrument on its own. While home hygiene habits are critical when wearing orthodontic appliances, regular exams and cleanings at the dental office are necessary as well.

Mechanisms for cleaning

Some patients are unaware that a dentist or hygienist can clean teeth that have orthodontic brackets and wires. However, this is arguably one of the most critical times in a patient's life to be diligent about dental hygiene appointments. Cleaning methods with braces include air-powder polishing, prophylaxis paste polishing and ultrasonic scaling. 

Air-powder polishing

This process uses a special instrument that mixes powder (often sodium bicarbonate) with water to form a paste that removes plaque and stains. The instrument uses gentle pulses of this powder and water mixture to cleanse areas of the tooth that are inaccessible with traditional instruments. This method is useful for cleaning under and around brackets. 

Prophylaxis paste polishing

When patients think of having teeth cleaned, they typically think of a traditional prophylaxis paste polishing. This is the polishing technique that is used at regular cleaning appointments for those without braces but can also be effective around orthodontic appliances as well. There are special angled brushes that allow maneuvering around orthodontic wires, and the different flavors of polishing paste can make the experience more appealing for younger patients. 

Ultrasonic scaling

Ultrasonic scalers use water to remove plaque around braces; a low power setting is used to provide a flushing effect without damaging the teeth or surrounding tissues. The ultrasonic scaler can also administer a medicated rinse to soothe gums that are irritated from brackets and bands. A dentist may recommend this if gums are bleeding excessively or are overgrown around brackets. 

Why cleanings are important during orthodontic treatment

If cleanings are not sought during orthodontic treatment, plaque can accumulate around brackets and cause the enamel of teeth to become soft and decayed. Costly treatment could be required to repair teeth in this condition once braces are removed, so it is important that oral hygiene is maintained throughout the entire process.

Even if plaque does not cause tooth decay, it can leave unsightly white spots on the teeth after orthodontic appliances are taken off, giving teeth a speckled appearance. Using a fluoride toothpaste and rinse can help prevent these white spots from appearing, assuming that oral hygiene is not neglected. If the orthodontist sees that the patient's dental hygiene is poor, they may recommend removing the braces until daily hygiene habits improve. 


Braces help individuals of all ages achieve a straight, attractive smile, but when hygiene is neglected during orthodontic treatment, the consequences can be detrimental to a patient's oral health. In order to maximize the benefits of orthodontics, it is important that patients place a high priority on daily brushing, flossing and regular cleaning appointments with a licensed dental professional. 

Request an appointment here: or call Gilroy Dental Associates at (408) 842-2818 for an appointment in our Gilroy office.

Check out what others are saying about our dental services on Yelp: braces in Gilroy, CA.

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