Important: do the basics right
When cleaning your teeth with braces, it’s crucial to get the basics right. In addition to brushing your teeth with a fluoride toothpaste, there are other important steps to master.
Mouthwash is a good option to be used in addition to toothbrushing, and at a different time of day.
Despite having braces, it’s essential to clean between your teeth. Floss can be used, but is difficult to master if you have wires in the way. Interdental brushes and water flossers are other good options. All of these can also be used to clean around the brackets.
A quick summary of the best tools
Here are my recommendations at a glance. After I’ve explained how to use them in the next section, I cover them in more detail:
Studies show that interdental brushes (jump to recommendations) are the most effective tool.
Orthodontic kits can be convenient if you just want to buy a selection of tools all in one go.
How to clean around brackets and in between teeth
Perhaps the biggest frustration for any fixed dental brace wearer is flossing.
Cleaning between your teeth should be done on a daily basis. Interdental cleaning is important to keep your mouth clean, prevent dental diseases, and protect any dental work you have.
The tool that you use for cleaning in between your teeth can also be used to physically remove plaque around the brackets on your teeth.
There are many tools that can aid with the interdental cleaning required.
For clarity, here is a quick summary of the terminology and naming conventions used to describe the various interdental cleaning methods:
- Floss — this refers to string floss
- Interdental brush — these are small, thin plastic or silicone brushes
- Water flosser — this is an electronic device that shoots out pressurised water
- Flossing tool — these are tools that help to hold and use floss. They come in various forms
Generally, floss is not the most effective cleaning aid. Nor is it the most practical if you have braces, however it is included here as an option. Interdental brushes are the most effective cleaning option and will do a good job of cleaning around brackets too. However, they are the most expensive option. The final option would be a water flosser. Although they are not the most effective method for cleaning between the teeth, they are very good at removing food debris from the brackets.
Do get personalised advice from your dentist, orthodontist, or hygienist, as the spacing between your teeth will be different to another person. These spaces will also change due to tooth movement whilst wearing braces.
Interdental brushes are the best thing to use for braces
Going by the evidence from various studies, interdental brushes are the most effective method for cleaning between the teeth. They get around the wire problem as you simply push them into the gap between your teeth. They are also a good tool for cleaning around the brackets.
Interdental brushes are the ideal alternative to dental floss if you have braces. I would recommend using these instead of floss.
There are many options available, in many different sizes. This includes wooden handle options, reusable handle options, and cheaper alternatives.
If you wear braces, I recommend these interdental brushes:
GUM Proxabrush Go-Betweens
GUM Soft Picks Advanced
Because of the movement of your teeth, the gaps between them are likely to be tight in many places. You might find interdental brushes a challenge to use, in which case silicone brushes are a good alternative for cleaning between your teeth. GUM Soft Picks Advanced (Amazon, Walmart) are a good choice here.
A recent study has shown silicone brushes to be as effective as regular interdental brushes when it comes to removing plaque and reducing bleeding. These are great to use between your teeth, but I would still advise using the conventional brushes around the brackets as the bristles will clean better.
The above choices are my main recommendations, but there are many other options available. For more information, I have put together an article on the best interdental brushes.
Flossing tools for braces that are worth trying
Flossing tools help to make dental floss easier to use. There are two main types:
- Reusable options – are refilled with your own floss. Help to direct floss to the right area.
- Single use options.
For a full explanation of all the options available, see our post on the best flossing tools.
There are two options I want to tell you about if you who wear braces; floss threaders and the Platypus.
Dentek Floss Threader
Floss threaders are used by threading a piece of floss through the small piece of plastic. It is much like a piece of thread being fed through the eye of a needle. They are an alternative to using specific implant and bridge floss with a waxed end. The threader is stiffer than the floss, but has enough flex to allow floss to be passed in between and through brace wires etc. You can see how they work in this video.
You can also get single use flossettes or floss harps. These have floss already attached to them and are disposed of after one use. They are wasteful, and not something I would generally recommend. They do have a role in being easier to use than other options, and convenient when out and about.
Platypus Ortho Flosser
There is one option designed specifically for brace wearers: the Platypus Ortho Flosser (Amazon, Walmart). These are flossettes which have thinner arms that can fit between the braces wire and the teeth.
Water flossers are as good as floss, but not as good as interdental brushes
Water flossers are powered cleaners. They send jets of water into the mouth, and remove food debris. They have a role to play when it comes to cleaning around brackets.
However they are not the most effective cleaner. They will do as good a job as flossing, but not as good a job as interdental brushes.
We have a post that explains the differences between floss, water flossers and interdental brushes in more detail.
If you have struggled with other ways of cleaning, you can try a water flosser.
Our list of best water flossers for braces gives our suggestions on those you could consider to make your life that little bit easier.
There are two main options for you to consider. Either a powerful countertop version, which will give you the best clean. Or a cordless version which is small enough to be taken away with you in a bag.
The best water flossers for braces in those two cases would be:
Other useful products
So far I have explained interdental brushes are the most effective option — they clean the best. Floss is the most convenient and affordable option, but is unlikely to give a good enough clean. Water flossers can be used to clean around your braces and remove food debris, but you still need something to clean between your teeth.
It is likely you will end up using a combination of products to get a really good clean. It is worth the effort to find the right tools so that you are not left with damage to your teeth and gums after wearing braces.
There are some other products you could look at to help with cleaning your brace.
This is an angled brush with a rounded tuft, which is suitable for cleaning around brackets and along the gum line.
An angled brush with a tapered tuft, is ideal for cleaning areas close to brackets and under wires. Two different angles can be chosen for optimal access.Both of these options are easier to handle than interdental brushes but not as precise or flexible. The following video shows the best technique and shares tips on how to floss correctly.
A couple of good (string) floss options
The best floss for braces is one that has stiff ends and spongy floss in the middle. The stiff end makes it easy to thread around the wires, whilst the spongy floss has a good surface area for thorough cleaning.
An alternative, and cheaper option, is to use regular floss with a floss threader. In which case the best overall floss would be Oral-B Essential Floss Mint Waxed (Amazon, Ebay). See above for my recommendations for flossing tools.
There are, of course, many different options for floss. This includes plastic free versions, vegan options, biodegradable options, dental tapes, and expanding floss. Any of these can be used with a threader to clean around braces and the one you choose is dependent on your budgets and beliefs. Check out our guide to the best dental floss for more explanation and more options.
Orthodontic kits can be convenient
When caring for your teeth and brace, it is important to essentially build a toolkit of products you like and want to use.
Some people may want the convenience of a ready made kit which has all the basic tools needed.
It can be used as a starter kit, or to help test what you like to use. It can also be useful to keep it in a bag, a desk drawer at the office or in the car.
Ideally you want a kit that contains a toothbrush, toothpaste, interdental brush (for cleaning between teeth and around brackets). Extra items could include mouthwash, floss and/or flosser of some sort, and wax for protecting sore spots from brackets.
There are a number of different pre-made kits that you can buy and keep to hand for convenience or emergencies.
I wouldn’t recommend buying one of these kit unless it has everything you want, with nothing going to waste. A cheaper option would be to buy the individual pieces you need to go in a pack to make your own.
Toothbrush and toothpaste recommendations
In this post I have focussed on interdental cleaning, but if you want information on which toothbrush to pick, head to our best toothbrush for braces page. This includes recommendations on the best manual toothbrush for braces and best electric toothbrush for people with braces. It also has lots of good information about how to brush your teeth when you have braces.
Finally, see my post on the best toothpaste for braces if you need some recommendations there.