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Patient Compliance

Probably the most important variable in all orthodontic treatment is the behavior of the patient. Orthodontic treatment takes a long time and sticking-with-it can be challenging. Compliance is the key to an outstanding outcome.

Much work and effort has gone into the construction and placement of your orthodontic appliances. Take care of your braces by keeping them clean and being very careful with the types of foods you put in your mouth. Breakage of your braces results in extra appointments (usually during school hours) for repairs and will lengthen the total time of your treatment.

Please refer to the following recommendations on eating.

Hard Foods

Hard foods may cause damage by bending the wires, loosening the cement under the bands or breaking the brackets that are bonded to the teeth. Examples of those foods are listed below along with the ways that they may be eaten:

    • Carrots or celergy: grate, cook or cut into thin pieces.
    • Apples: Cut into bite size pieces
    • French bread, hard rolls bagels: avoid hard crusts
    • Corn on the cob, chicken, ribs: Cut corn off of the cob and meat off of the bone.

Please do not eat nuts, hard pretzels, hard pizza crust or chips. The top half of the popcorn bowl is fine to munch on, but stay away from the nuggets in the bottom. CHEWING ICE CUBES IS STRICTLY FORBIDDEN!!!

Sticky Foods

Sticky foods can damage the appliances by bending wires and loosening the cement, actually pulling them off the teeth. Please do not eat Taffy, Sugar Daddies, peanut brittle, caramels, candy apples, licorice or any of the currently popular types of sticky candies such as Starbursts or Now& Later.


Sugarless gum only, one stick at time. No regular gum or bubblegum of any kind, please. Don’t ever use gum with a plastic retainer: it will stick and be nearly impossible to remove.

Sugary foods and drinks

Foods and drinks high in sugar should be limited. It doesn’t matter if the sugar is natural or processed. The germs (bacteria) that cause tooth decay, decalcification (scarred enamel) and gum disease need sugar on your teeth in order to live. Sweets feed these germs which produces the bad effects. Sweets have there most destructive effect when there is a little bit of sugar consumed frequently. Germs like artificial sweeteners just as much so don’t think you’re OK with diet soda pop. The worst possible thing is slowly drinking a bottle or giant cup of pop (Mountain Dew, Coke) all day long. Brushing will not wash away the affects of these sugars. The only solution is limited time with sweets in your mouth.


Clean all the plaque and food debris off your teeth and braces. Starting with the back tooth, place the brush against the teeth angled down from above the wire. The bristles should be pushed under the wire and between the teeth.

Vibrate the brush in tiny circles as you progressively move the brush from the back teeth to the front teeth and then to the back teeth on the other side. Once you\’ve reached the other side, aim the bristles upward under the wire and proceed as before back to the side you started on.
This way you brush over each tooth twice, once from above and once from below the wire without missing any area.

Remember to also brush the tongue side and chewing surfaces of the teeth. After brushing, rinse your mouth out with water and carefully inspect your teeth to be sure they are clean. Careful brushing should take at least 3 minutes.

An inter-dental toothbrush is designed to clean areas that a regular toothbrush cannot reach. It works well in between the brackets. It’s purpose is mostly to push out food debris after eating.

Mechanical/Electronic Toothbrushes

Many patients achieve good oral hygiene with electric toothbrushes. Dr. Oppenhuizen recommends them. Consider the Sonicare, Braun, or Rotodent brands.


Dental floss is a nylon thread that is used to remove dental plaque and food debris that accumulate between the teeth. Start flossing on one side of the mouth, and systematically work your way to the opposite side.

Flossing is more difficult when you have braces bonded to your teeth. You may find it necessary to insert the floss under the wire with a device called a floss threader and then slide the floss gently between your teeth. Be careful not to apply too strong a force on the wire. Superfloss, a special kind of thick, fluffy floss may be helpful for cleaning under the wires. Remember to use gentle up and down movements.

Cleaning a Removable Appliance

An appliance tends to accumulate plaque and food debris just the way teeth do. It should be cleaned daily with a toothbrush and running warm water. Always dry off a retainer before it is stored in its case.