What You Need to Know About Braces and Gum Health - Thomas Orthodontics

What You Need to Know About Braces and Gum Health

Woman with healthy gums and braces.

If you’re considering getting braces, or if you already have them, you may be wondering how orthodontic treatment will affect your gum health. Braces can make it more difficult to brush and floss, which can lead to plaque buildup and, over time, gum disease. However, there are a number of things you can do to keep your gums healthy with braces.

On the other hand, braces are a long-term investment in your oral health. Correcting your orthodontic issues can improve the health of both your teeth and your gums for years to come.

What is Gum Disease?

Gum disease is a serious condition that can damage your gums and the bone that supports your teeth. If left untreated, gum disease can lead to gum recession and tooth loss. Gum disease is surprisingly prevenant, with up to 50% of adults in the U.S. suffering from either gingivitis (the early stage) or more severe gum disease.

Risks of Gum Disease with Braces

You may be wondering what this has to do with braces. Having braces can make it more difficult to brush and floss, which can lead to plaque buildup and gum disease. Plaque is a sticky film of bacteria that forms on your teeth. If plaque is not removed, it can harden into tartar. Tartar can irritate your gums and cause them to become inflamed. If the inflammation is not treated, it can lead to gum disease.

In addition, because braces put pressure on your teeth to move them, this pressure can affect your gums, leaving them more susceptible to disease.

How to Prevent Gum Disease with Braces

While you can’t help the fact that braces put pressure on your gums and teeth (that’s what they are there for), there are a number of things you can do to prevent gum disease during your treatment.

  • Brush your teeth twice a day for two minutes each time. Be sure to brush all surfaces of your teeth, including the inside, outside, and chewing surfaces.
  • Use a soft-bristled toothbrush. A hard-bristled toothbrush can irritate your gums.
  • Floss once a day. It can be hard to use traditional floss with braces. If you have trouble, use a soft-bristled floss pick or a water flosser to reach between your teeth and remove plaque.
  • Don’t smoke. Smoking, vaping, and other drugs can increase gum inflammation and reduce saliva, which can negatively impact gum health.
  • See your orthodontist for regular checkups and adjustments. Your orthodontist will check your teeth and gums for signs of gum disease and make adjustments to your braces as needed.

How Braces Prevent Long-Term Risk Factors for Gum Disease

While having braces can increase the risk in the short term, there is good evidence to suggest that straightening your teeth substantially decreases your risk of developing gum disease over time. Straighter teeth with less overlapping mean an easier time cleaning as well as fewer places for food to get stuck. Along with improving your changes of avoiding gum disease, fixing bite issues can improve jaw heath and straightening misaligned teeth helps you to fight tooth decay and loss.

Pay Attention to Signs of Gum Disease

Symptoms of gum disease include:

  • Bright red or purple gums
  • Irritable, puffy, or swollen gums
  • Tenderness and sensitivity in gums
  • Minor bleeding from gums after brushing and flossing
  • Unexplained bad breath

These symptoms can sometimes mimic normal discomfort that may occur with braces. That is why it is so important to keep both your regular dental checkups and you orthodontist visits during your treatment. The good news is that, when cause early, it is possible to reverse gum disease.

If you are considering getting braces, be sure to talk to us about the risks of gum disease. We can help you develop a plan to keep your gums healthy during and after your orthodontic treatment.