7 min read

Tips and Tricks for Cleaning Your Braces and Aligners When Not at Home

Whenever you eat away from home, how do you deal with food getting stuck in your braces or aligners? Or worse--what if something damages your orthodontics while you’re traveling? These are common problems, but they don’t always come with easy solutions.

We’ve done a little research on what works best for our patients, plus a little investigating into what others have found effective and ended up with some great remedies! Follow along and consider which of these tips and tricks might work best for you next time you need to eat on the go.

How new are you to braces/aligners and how long will you be away from home?

If you’re fairly new to wearing braces or aligners, eating and keeping your mouth clean will be a bit different than you are used to. After a while, you figure out the easiest way to do things and the process becomes simple. At first, it may also help to stick with the basics on what to eat and maybe even bring some of your own foods with you when you leave home. Essentially, you’ll want to opt for softer foods and stay away from harder, chewier, or stickier foods.

Of course, if you’ll only be out long enough to eat, keeping your mouth and braces or aligners clean is a much smaller issue than if you’re planning an extended stay away from home. Let’s take a look at what works for both in the following solutions.

Dental Hygiene Essentials for Eating On-The-Go

Whether you have braces, aligners, or other orthodontic work going on, it’s important to maintain a proper dental hygiene schedule -- meaning brushing and flossing at least twice daily, no matter where you are.

Plus, having a piece of spinach or holiday casserole stuck in your teeth right before the family gathers ‘round the tree for pictures and present opening can be an unnecessary and horrifying embarrassment. These tools can help with all of it! See which ones work for you:

  1. Tuck a floss pick, travel brush, or interproximal brush into your pocket or purse.
    Floss picks, small travel-size toothbrushes, and interproximal brushes come in handy away from home, whether you’ve got toothpaste or not. If you have one on you, you can casually step into the restroom if you feel something in your teeth without taking too much time away from your group. (Interproximal brushes, also known as proxy brushes, can be helpful when you have braces since they can keep teeth spic and span underneath and between brackets and wires. Check out a demonstration here. Kids or people with sensitive gums may want to avoid them, though, since they can injure your gums if used improperly.)
  2. Bring Platypus Flossers.
    American made and recommended by orthodontists, these flossers are designed for brace wearers specifically. Use them with ease as they slide between brackets, and miraculously floss your whole mouth in less than two minutes!
  3. Stash a dental pack in your glove compartment.
    If you’ve got room for a travel-size toothpaste beside your travel brush, keep that with you, too. Some find that simply stashing a tube in their carry-along bag, purse, or backpack works best. Single-use floss picks are also a great thing to keep in a travel compartment.
  4. Consider trying rubber picks.
    More stimulating to the gums than regular flossers, these will also help with after-meal flossing so it couldn’t hurt to throw a pack in your travel bag. They’ll also help to keep your gums free of gingivitis as well. There are many kinds of rubber picks, try a few and see which work best for you.
If You’re Wearing Aligners or a Retainer:

If you’re wearing aligners or a retainer, remember to remove them before eating. This means carrying your travel case with you whenever you’re going out to eat, securely placed into either in your pocket or purse. Here is some more information on taking care of your retainer. Many of these tips also apply to aligners.

Also, stay away from hot liquids when wearing them, as they can distort the shape of aligners and retainers if hot enough.

When you’re done eating and ready to put your aligners back in, make sure you’ve brushed and flossed thoroughly beforehand. If you absolutely can’t clean your teeth then, at the very least, rinse your mouth thoroughly with water before putting aligners or a retainer back in.

Don’t forget to clean your aligners, allowing them to dry between wearing to eliminate bacteria.

What to Do if a Wire Break or a Bracket Comes Loose.

Keep urgent contact info tucked away, just in case. What happens if a wire comes loose or some other type of orthodontic damage occurs while you’re away from home over the holidays? Of course, such events are unlikely to happen, particularly if you’re careful about what you’re eating. But accidents do happen, so it’s best to have a plan in place!

If you plan to stay in town, we do have someone on call in case of dental and orthodontic emergencies. If a wire breaks or bracket comes loose, your comfort is the most important consideration. As long as you are comfortable, it’s fine to wait until normal office hours to call and have us fit you in for an appointment to fix the damage. If you are not comfortable, you can call the orthodontic emergency number and leave a message, then a team member will call you back so we can determine the best course of action.

Heading a distance away? Since most dental offices will be closed over the holidays, it’s helpful to do a quick search for the location of any emergency dental facilities once you reach your destination. Emergency dental clinics can usually fit in new patients when needed. If this happens, be sure to give us a call as soon as you get back into town. In order to avoid setting back or extending treatment, we’ll want to see you as soon as possible.

Until you can see us, try these quick tips.

If you lose a bracket or a wire breaks, try these ideas until you can see us:

Check on loosened brackets and cover sharp parts with orthodontic wax. We gave you some orthodontic wax to use in case wires or brackets become loose or start poking you uncomfortably. You can also purchase orthodontic wax in the dental hygiene section of most pharmacies, grocery stores, and super stores. Now might be a good time to get that out.

Try to locate exactly where the problem is in your mouth. If you have a loose bracket, see if it can be repositioned or removed easily. Use a little orthodontic wax to hold it where it belongs and cover any parts that protrude or rub against your cheek until you’re able to see us.

Assess bent or broken wires and gently try to work them back into position. We do our best to secure wires by “cinching” them so the ends are prevented from sliding or coming out. But wires can still bend or break. If this happens to you, try to gently move any such wires back into their original positions using a pencil eraser or Q-tip. If it’s still out of position, grab a little of that orthodontic wax we mentioned earlier and cover any sharp or pointy ends until you get your orthodontic appointment. If a wire is broken, you can carefully clip the wire using a nail clipper or small wire clipper. Again, if you are unsure, you can call the emergency number and our team will walk you through how to take care of the problem and determine the best course of action.

Carry a package of over-the-counter pain medication with you. If you’re experiencing a sore mouth away from home, take a little OTC pain medicine or try swishing some warm salt water in your mouth. A tiny pinch of Orajel may help, too. Keep yourself comfortable until you can see us.

A Few More Tips to Help Out
  • Keep an orthodontics-friendly menu on hand. If you’re new to braces or aligners, and sometimes forget what you can eat, try to keep a list like this handy (includes appropriate soft foods and hard, sticky foods you should avoid), or a list of dental-friendly snacks and fast foods you can grab when you’re out and about. Still need more ideas? Give us a call or ask during your next appointment. We’d be happy to talk through options with you!
  • Keep water nearby. This is first and foremost - and it’s important for many other reasons besides just freshening up the mouth. When you don’t have any way to brush your teeth, sipping water is an excellent way to rinse food particles and cavity-causing acids off your teeth after eating. If you can’t carry a reusable water bottle from home with you, look around for other options. There are sure to be plenty, including grabbing a bottle at the nearest convenience store or simply asking your host for a glass of water.
  • Cut it up. If you’re facing a plate of food usually eaten by hand, i.e. tacos, fried chicken, leftover turkey or ham sandwiches, corn on the cob, etc., consider cutting it into bite-sized pieces to eat with utensils instead. This can really help out if you’ve got braces or and don’t want to miss out on the tasty vittles! (Not sure how to cut the corn off your cob without a mess? Check this bowl-in-a-bowl method out that is easy to use if you’re at home!)
  • Go ahead and indulge -- just not constantly. With trays of holiday cookies and candies as far as the eye can see, it can be difficult to resist, but an all-day barrage of sugary treats on the teeth could lay the groundwork for a mouthful of cavities. What to do? Eat your favorite dessert, just once, then brush your teeth. You’ll satisfy your holiday cravings while also protecting your teeth from constant exposure to sugar.

As we all finalize plans for the holidays and the meals they always bring, let’s try to remember to keep our teeth clean and our orthodontics intact along the way. Choose the right foods, cut them up as needed, bring your favorite dental hygiene products with you, and always, always, always have water on hand.

We invite you to call if you have any questions or concerns about planning your dental hygiene for the holidays. We would also like to thank you for being part of our patient family and wish you and yours a very happy holiday season!

At Jungle Roots Children’s Dentistry & Orthodontics, we strive to provide the highest comprehensive pediatric and orthodontic dental care in a unique, fun-filled environment staffed by a team of caring, energetic professionals. We believe the establishment of a “dental home” at an early age is the key to a lifetime of positive visits to the dentist.

Call Us - (480) 759-1119

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