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Do I Still Need to Go to the Dentist During Braces or Clear Aligner Treatment?

By May 26, 2022Blog
Do I Still Need to Go to the Dentist During Braces or Clear Aligner Treatment?

You’ve just started orthodontic treatment, congratulations! Getting braces or clear aligners means you’re on your way to a straight, beautiful smile. That said, you want to make sure your teeth stay healthy during your treatment. Why? So that when the big reveal comes around, your new grin is both stunning and cavity-free!

So do you still go to the dentist with braces or Invisalign®? The short answer is, yes. In fact, going to the dentist with braces or clear aligners is even more important than when you didn’t have them. Braces add extra places for plaque and tartar to hide, and wearing Invisalign creates a warm, moist environment where bacteria loves to grow. The dentist can spot and treat any tooth decay, cavities or gingivitis that’s affecting your teeth health. 

How often do you go to the dentist with braces? Twice a year for checkups and cleanings, just like before. 

Orthodontist vs. Dentist

Now you might want some clarity on the difference between an orthodontist and a dentist. Although both are doctors of oral care, they specialize in different things. 

Orthodontists: Orthodontists like Dr. Buddy, Dr. Adam, and Dr. Sarah at Davis Orthodontics specialize in diagnosing and correcting misalignment of your teeth and jaws. They first go through graduate schooling for dentistry, then take additional training and certification in tooth and jaw alignment treatment to become orthodontists. Think of it like this: every orthodontist is qualified to practise as a dentist, but most general dentists cannot practise orthodontics. At Davis Orthodontics, we offer services like:

  • monitoring jawline and bite growth in children
  • diagnosing and treating misaligned teeth and jaws
  • creating treatment plans for appliances like braces, Invisalign, and retainers
  • Installing those dental appliances
  • performing teeth-straightening surgery

Dentists: Dentists are your primary oral health care provider. They diagnose and treat oral health issues that happen to your teeth, gums, tongue, and mouth. The dentist performs services like:

  • conducting and interpreting dental X-rays
  • filling cavities and repairing cracked teeth
  • filling and bonding teeth
  • extracting teeth
  • treating gum disease
  • prescribing treatment, including prescription drugs, for oral health conditions
  • whitening teeth and installing crowns or veneers
  • performing oral surgery

Tooth Decay and Cavities with Braces

General dentistry and orthodontics are two different branches of oral care, but dentists and orthodontics agree that caring for your teeth with braces is vital. The extra nooks and crannies around your brackets and wires can hide food debris and plaque. And with Invisalign, food and plaque can sit between your clear aligners and teeth. As a result, bacteria build-up and acids may eat away at your tooth enamel. Damaged enamel makes you more likely to get tooth decay, cavities, or gingivitis — a type of gum disease.

Keeping a healthy smile goes a long way in letting your orthodontic treatment work as efficiently as possible. If you have tooth decay, cavities, or gingivitis with braces, your dentist might request that your orthodontist remove your braces to access and treat your issues without obstruction. Taking your braces off can sometimes prolong your orthodontic treatment time. 

The same goes for oral health issues and Invisalign. Tooth decay, cavities, and gingivitis need treatment so they don’t worsen. And treatment at the dentist means taking out your clear aligners while you’re in the dentist chair. As Invisalign users know, wearing your Invisalign for less than 22 hours a day can reduce its effectiveness, perhaps stretching out your treatment schedule. 

Dental Cleaning with Braces

Many of our patients ask us what dental cleaning with braces or clear aligners is like. First, makes sure you tell your dentist about your orthodontic treatment when you make your appointment. Then they can schedule a longer appointment if needed. 

Second, even though cleaning teeth with braces doesn’t use any special procedures, your dentist and dental care staff do take care to thoroughly and carefully clean around your brackets and wires. Sometimes, your dentist might opt to remove your archwire for easier access—sliding it out and then putting it back on afterwards. This can add a bit of extra time to your appointment.

Third, your dentist might use a smaller brush to thoroughly clean all those braces nooks and crannies. Your teeth will be flossed and a scaler used to remove plaque or tartar. Most dentists also add on a fluoride treatment to strengthen your teeth if you’re due for one.

Oral Care At Home

It goes without saying that excellent daily dental hygiene is your first defense against tooth decay and cavities. On top of getting professional dental cleaning twice a year, follow these tips to make sure you’re caring for your teeth and braces or Invisalign at home:

1. Establish a thorough oral hygiene routine: Brush with a soft manual or electric toothbrush morning and night, as well as after eating. Brushing helps remove food debris from around your braces. If you wear Invisalign, brushing gets rid of food particles that might otherwise get trapped between your teeth and your clear aligner when you put it back on. Opt for fluoride toothpaste to strengthen your tooth enamel.

Flossing gets at the food and plaque in between your teeth that a toothbrush can’t reach. If you find flossing tricky with braces, don’t worry, most of our patients find they get the hang of it pretty quickly! But if want to make it easier from the get-go, try flossing tools like a floss threader, water flosser, or floss pick.

Level up your oral hygiene habits with a fluoride mouthwash and an interproximal brush. And be sure to rinse your Invisalign trays before putting them back in after a meal, and brush them inside and out before you go to bed.

2. Maintain a healthy diet: Eating lots of teeth-friendly foods like veggies, fruits, nuts, seeds and lean protein gives you vitamins and minerals for strong teeth. Limit starchy foods and refined sugars since they kickstart the bacteria and acid in your mouth that weakens tooth enamel. 

3. Carry an oral care travel kit for on-the-go cleaning: Gather the following so you’re always ready to keep your teeth sparkling clean wherever you are:

  • A travel toothbrush
  • Travel toothpaste
  • Interproximal brushes
  • Orthodontic flossers
  • Braces wax (okay, not hygiene-related, but it helps with irritation or braces emergencies) OR
  • Invisalign tray case to store your clear aligners while you eat

Working Together for Your Oral Health

Your smile deserves the best! For healthy, happy teeth, don’t miss your professional dental cleanings, especially with braces. 

Contact our Greer, Simpsonville or any of our seven SC locations to learn more about ways to improve your dental health.