Managing Mangled Metal: Dealing with Braces


Photo credit: Marti Weary © 2013

Even though braces aren’t fun, you can make the best of them. Have no shame and get bright colors.

Marti Weary, Rescue Copy Editor

Braces suck. No, there will be no sugarcoating here, because it’s true. Any child (or adult) that has ever had to endure these trials of patience and pain knows just how difficult they can be. As someone who spent a little over three straight years with chunks of metal in her mouth (and now has them in her mouth again) I like to think that I’ve amassed a small collection of tips and tricks for the orthopaedically challenged.

Some Tips for When You’re Starting Out:

Your first day will hurt. Sorry kid, but your first day in braces (and every time you go in to get your wires tightened/replaced/your rubber bands changed out) is going to leave you feeling pretty sore in the mouth.

Pick foods you don’t have to chew. Seriously, try to find the best substances that you can get down with just a swallow, and rely on those for about the first 2-3 days. Personally, I’ve found smoothies, mashed potatoes, scrambled eggs, and even plain ramen noodles or curry rice to be my favorites.

Eat cold foods. Most metal braces these days are made out of an alloy that expands with cold, so don’t hesitate to eat that ice cream or drink a glass of ice water when you need a quick fix. Make sure that the cold substances make contact with your braces for a second or two.

Take aspirin. Or ibuprofen, or Motrin if you really can’t bear the soreness. A small painkiller will take the edge off your tender teeth.

It gets better. The pain and tenderness will subside after, at most, a week and a half. Just try to bear down until it ends, because I promise that you’ll be able to chew again after that.

Caring for Your Braces:

Get that food out. You’re going to trap a lot of food in your braces. A lot. Not only is it unsightly, but it can damage your teeth. Be sure to poke it out with special flossers or at least swish water around your mouth.

Brush and floss, heed my words. Do not stop brushing or flossing. Ever. Flossing with braces is especially sucky but this is the time where you most need it. It will keep your gums healthy throughout your ordeal; and once you get your braces off, your smile will be ideal.

“But I can’t floss with these things.” Fear not! There are many methods to floss/remove food particles with braces. Some of them are annoying, but there are always better options.

  • floss threaders: you thread floss through a little plastic loop and run it underneath your braces in order to floss. It’s annoying, but it works. It is time consuming and many people have difficulties flossing their back teeth.

  • a soft pick: these are little pipe cleaner-like devices. They can be used to easily remove food from in between your braces. (I do NOT recommended “flossing” by sticking a soft pick in between your teeth at the gums. It will wear down your soft tissue, and if you have degenerate gums or gum disease this is not something you want.)

  • a waterpik or similar device: this shoots water in between your teeth at high speeds to dislodge food. They’re very easy to use and can clean out your teeth in a snap, but they are not without their flaws. They don’t provide the same kind of gum stimulation as regular flossing, nor do they scrape off the plaque that forms in between teeth. They can also run a high price; however, they are still useful for keeping food particles out of your teeth and braces.

  • an orthopick: these are by far the best option I have ever used for real flossing: getting food out from your braces AND removing plaque from in between your teeth AND stimulating your gums. Orthopicks are like the little flosser picks you may have had as a kid, but these ones are special. Usually disposable, orthopicks function just like a regular flossing pick, with the specific difference of they fit in between your braces. It’s a little hard to explain verbally, but look at this picture. (orthopick)

That thin part fits right under the wire of your braces and allows you to floss with ease! I highly recommend these. There are a couple brands, that vary in price. Personally I use Plackers Orthopicks; they’re really inexpensive and very effective. Orthopicks can sometimes have difficulty cleaning in between the back teeth, and they’re a little hard to find in stores. However, they can be ordered online and many stores note online if they have Orthopicks in stock.

Living With Braces:

Steady on. Your braces will be done soon enough, so just grin and bear it, and try to be positive about how your teeth are going to be better than ever.

Don’t be stupid. Really. Don’t try to chew hard things, don’t break your braces, etc. Use common sense! Many people eat sticky and chewy things (even though they’re not supposed to) and don’t ruin their braces. Still, be wary of what you put in your mouth and how it will interact with your braces, because they are your responsibility.

Do what they tell you. If they give you rubber bands, wear your rubber bands. Your compliance will make everything go smoother and you’ll be out of braces faster. If they tell you “Stop eating the Jolly Ranchers because we keep replacing your brackets,” stop eating the Jolly Ranchers, stop it.

Getting Your Braces Off:

Enjoy your newfound freedom. Bite into an apple. Chew all that chewy junk without fear of it getting stuck. Floss your teeth like a normal person! Enjoy it friend, you earned it.

Wear your retainer.  Wear it. Wear it. You will, most likely, get some kind of retainer after your braces come off.Wear it religiously. If your teeth regress, guess what you get to do all over again?

Now, keep these things in mind when your braces are making you suffer. All you have to do is keep up with their maintenance and use your common sense! I promise, you can make the best out of your experience with braces. I did!