Correcting a poor bite not only creates a more attractive smile, but ultimately a healthier one too. But braces, a common way to correct bites, could put your teeth and gums at higher risk for disease while wearing them.
That's because the brackets and wires that make up braces can get in the way of cleaning your teeth of dental plaque, a thin bacterial film that causes disease. Plaque can accumulate in these obstructed dental areas, and could lead, in one possible scenario, to a problem you may not even notice until after the braces come off—white spots on the teeth, or white spot lesions (WSLs).
WSLs occur because of "demineralization," a process caused by acid from bacteria stripping the enamel in these spots of underlying minerals like calcium. As a result, the spots look chalky and opaque in contrast to the rest of the enamel's normal translucence.
Even though more difficult with braces, daily oral hygiene remains the best defense against WSL formation. Fortunately, these difficulties can be overcome with the help of specialized tools like an interproximal toothbrush, which can get under and around braces better than a regular brush. A water flosser device, which clears away between-teeth plaque with pulsating water, can be just as effective as dental floss and easier for orthodontic patients to use.
Orthodontic patients can also make their mouths "less friendly" to harmful bacteria by cutting back on sugary snacks or acidic beverages like sodas, energy or sports drinks. It's also a good idea to avoid alcohol, tobacco or caffeine, all of which can diminish saliva flow needed to keep the mouth healthy.
If WSLs do occur, it's possible that they may eventually remineralize on their own after the braces come off. We can also foster remineralization with over-the-counter or prescription-grade fluoride pastes or gels, or apply fluoride directly to the affected teeth. In advanced cases, we can often inject a tooth-colored resin beneath the white spot to stabilize it and make it appear less opaque.
In any event, it's always a good idea to keep a close watch on your teeth during orthodontic treatment. Staying vigilant and proactive will help you avoid disease while wearing braces.
If you would like more information on dental care while undergoing orthodontic treatment, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “White Spots on Teeth During Orthodontic Treatment.”