After months and months of careful brushing, avoiding popcorn and taffy, and wearing elastic bands, the day has finally come. Your braces are off, and you can smile freely again, basking in the beauty of your newly straightened smile. While the hard (and most painful) part is over, your tooth straightening journey is not yet complete. You'll need to stay vigilant with post-removal care to make sure all those months your spent in the trenches of brackets, wires, and cleanings weren't for nothing. Here is a guide to after-braces care to help you stay on the straight (no pun intended) and narrow.
Be consistent about daily hygiene habits.
Because you had to care for your teeth so particularly while you had braces, you may feel a certain freedom brushing and flossing easily after the brackets are gone. However, this is no reason to get sloppy. Braces can leave your teeth with a temporary stain, especially if you were not as attentive to dental hygiene while your wore them. Careful, thorough, and attentive brushing and flossing will help to correct these stains and keep your teeth looking better than ever.
Faithfully wear your retainer for as long as prescribed.
You might feel dismayed to discover that only days after your braces come off, your teeth already start to move. This "settling" of your teeth is normal, but obviously you don't want your teeth to shift too much. This is why, even though you may not want to, wearing your retainer exactly as directed by your orthodontist is so important. Your exhilaration at being braces-free may be short lived, and you can start to view your retainer as a bother, but don't move from wearing it full time until you get the okay from the dentist. Just because you have a friend or sibling who only wore a retainer for three months does not mean your situation will be similar. Orthodontics is heavily individualized, and your treatment plan is exactly what your teeth need—you can't set yourself a timeline based on the experiences of others.
Don't shy away from further treatment.
Sometimes, the dreaded tooth movement is too much for comfort, and your orthodontist will recommend returning to braces. Don't feel too depressed! You might not need to get full-time brackets and wire. You might need a brace installed on the inside of your teeth so that the brace can't be seen, or your dentist might want you to try Invisalign braces for a few more months. It's important to treat moving teeth as soon as possible because if your teeth move too much, the issues will be more expensive and lengthy to repair. It can be discouraging to spend so many months in braces, only to put them back on again. Just remember, further treatment will likely be for only for a short time.
Talk to your dentist about bleaching treatments.
Marks on your teeth after braces are not uncommon, but they can make you self-conscious. You may wish for whitening or stain removal right away, but many dentists will have you wait. With good brushing and active saliva, marks made on the teeth from braces fade considerably, reducing the need for cosmetic treatment. However, if stains are still prominent six months after your braces have been removed, you can and should discuss whitening options with your dentist. Sometimes, you'll receive a whitening kit to take home. In other cases, you'll just do the treatment at the dentist office. Try to ignore the temptation to use over-the-counter whitening products unless your dentist gives you the go-ahead.
Life after braces can be a wonderful experience, but sticking with your care plan is essential to keeping straight, beautiful teeth. Talk to a professional such as Cobbe Dental & Orthodontics for more information.