Braces & Tooth Decay: How to Avoid It & How to Spot It

Posted | Blog, General Orthodontics

Before undergoing orthodontic treatment, we always recommend handling any existing dental issues. This is because braces can worsen already existing conditions. One of the top issues we want to avoid is tooth decay, which can be aggravated when braces offer more nooks and crannies for plaque to build. If you’re unfamiliar with tooth decay, read on to learn how to spot the signs and symptoms.    

Woman holds a paper cut out of an unhappy mouth featuring teeth with tooth decay in front of her mouth

Tooth Decay vs Cavities: What’s the Difference?

Tooth decay is a scary thing to hear in regards to your oral hygiene. However, oftentimes when dental professionals are talking about tooth decay, they are talking about the softening of our tooth enamel. This decay happens over time and leads to defects in your tooth, called a cavity. Since tooth decay leads to cavities, they’re related, but not the same thing. 

Cavities and tooth decay may be more common in the young and very old, but they can occur at any age so long as teeth are present. If left untreated, a cavity will continue to grow and may begin to affect other parts of your tooth, causing more health problems and increased discomfort. Because of this, it’s important to know how to spot and avoid tooth decay. 

Common Symptoms of Tooth Decay

Over the course of your orthodontic treatment, it’s important to keep vigilant about the signs and symptoms of tooth decay. These include:

  • Black, brown, or white stains
  • Pain when you bite down
  • Sensitivity to sweet, hot, & cold foods
  • Toothache, spontaneous pain or pain that occurs without any apparent cause
  • Tooth sensitivity
  • Visible holes or pits in your teeth

How to Prevent Tooth Decay While Wearing Braces

Brush Often

Having good oral hygiene habits prior to getting braces is a big help in preventing cavities during your treatment. It’s recommended that orthodontic patients brush their teeth after each meal to avoid plaque build-up. Yes, this even includes our Invisalign patients. Even though the removable aligner makes it easier to navigate meal times and treat any dental issues that may arise during treatment, it still provides an environment where food can remain trapped against a tooth and encourage tooth decay to begin.

Avoid Certain Foods

Your orthodontist will tell you to avoid foods like hard nuts and chips to avoid damage to your wires and brackets. However, there are also foods on the list of what to avoid because it would increase the likelihood of cavities should a piece remain trapped under your wire for a long period of time. 

Regularly Visit Your Dentist & Orthodontist

Lastly, one of the best ways to prevent cavities during orthodontic treatment is to maintain your regular visits with your orthodontist as well as your dentist. These dental professionals will be able to recognize the signs of tooth decay and prescribe the correct treatment in order to prevent or treat your case.

It may seem ironic that the way to a straighter smile that would help prevent tooth decay, makes it slightly easier for decay-causing bacteria to form. However, we assure you that by following the tips above, you will be taking excellent care of your oral health and on your way to an ideal smile.

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