Orthodontic Braces:

Having braces complicates brushing a little, but it doesn’t have to be a hassle if you prepare with the right equipment. The American Journal of Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics recommends an electric toothbrush to people with braces, since braces can trap food and put wearers at elevated risk of gum disease. But how do you determine which brush is best?

The General Advantages of an Electric Toothbrush

An electric toothbrush basically just enhances the cleaning power of a standard toothbrush. It does this by powering the brush head either in a circular motion or with sonic vibration. Whether or not you’ll actually need to keep using a brushing motion depends on how powerful the electric toothbrush is; with the strongest ones you can simply guide the brush over the teeth, but usually the less expensive brushes will still require you to perform a standard brushing motion for the brush to clean effectively.

Special Considerations for Braces

So what do wearers of braces have to consider when they go shopping for an electric toothbrush?

Well, the biggest consideration is a type that has a small, soft head. The small head is important for proper fit throughout the mouth and ensuring the areas contacting the braces are cleaned properly. And a soft head is important to keep from accidentally wearing the gum line down while cleaning. Some manufacturers offer a special orthodontic head designed specifically for braces, but if this is not available for your model, a standard soft head will usually work just as well.

However, this doesn’t rule out very many brands as adjustable heads are common. While the toothbrush usually only comes equipped with one stock head that may have bristles that are a little too stiff, usually either the toothbrush manufacturer or a third-party company makes a replacement head that will fit the bill.

The other point that is most relevant is the power output of the brush. Usually, brushes that are rechargeable have higher power output than the brushes that use batteries. The higher power is necessary for users with braces, as it is extremely important to be gentle when cleaning around them. You’ll want one of the brushes that is powerful enough to simply let you guide the brush around your teeth with gentle pressure rather than having to scrub away at them!

The material that the braces are made from doesn’t really matter in terms of what brush to get. A powerful brush with a soft and small head will work well in just about all circumstances.

Other Benefits of an Electric Toothbrush

So we’ve seen that the right electric toothbrush makes the process of cleaning around braces much easier. But in general, electric toothbrushes also do a better job of removing plaque, keeping the gum line clean and preventing both tooth decay and gum disease.

Dentists recommend that most people spend two minutes brushing, with about 30 seconds devoted to each quadrant of the mouth. Most people spend far less time than this, however. Studies have shown that people are actually more likely to spend an adequate amount of time brushing when they use an electric toothbrush.

Not only that, a good electric toothbrush that can be guided over the teeth gently reduces the chance of wearing out the gums while brushing. Some people get a little too vigorous when they clean, and this can actually scour gum tissue away over time! This is especially a problem with strong, stiff bristles.

Sonic vs Spinning?

You’ll find that there are two main types of powered toothbrush heads — sonic heads, and spinning heads.

Circular heads simply spin at a high rate of speed. The more advanced ones periodically shift the direction of their rotation, and the bristles may also move in and out as well.

Sonic heads vibrate extremely quickly. While these potentially offer the greatest cleaning power on the market, some users feel the vibrations are uncomfortable and this causes them to not brush as much as they should.

The truth is, this is mostly down to a matter of personal comfort and affordability. As long as you are brushing properly, both types can be very effective. It is important to keep fresh batteries in the spinning type to keep them properly powered, however. They do not often have battery indicators, and a sign that the batteries are getting too weak is that they will stop spinning temporarily when they make contact with the teeth.

Other Features and Considerations

The most advanced brushes have timers that will count off two minutes and notify you when you’re done with an audible alarm. Some even break this down further into increments of 30 seconds so you know when it’s time to move on from each quadrant of the mouth!

If you have decided to buy a brush that uses replacement batteries, something that it is very important to scan reviews for is that the battery cover is watertight. Some models of toothbrush will allow water to seep into the battery area. Even a tiny amount of water trapped in this area will corrode the batteries and the connections. When the connections are corroded, that’s usually the end of the toothbrush — you’ll have to throw it out and buy a new one.

You’ll see some exotic fringe benefits in the more expensive models, like Bluetooth connectivity that allows you to send reports on your brushing technique to a computer or a phone app. These may be worthwhile if the premium price is not off-putting. In the end, however, the most valuable features for wearers of braces are simply a solid build quality and the ability to attach an appropriate brush head.

Dr. Gerald O'Connor B.D.S., N.U.I. (hons) (Principal Dentist & Owner)

Dr Gerald O’Connor qualified with honours from University College Cork in 1998, where he achieved his Bachelor of Dental Surgery degree and was awarded the Kerr Prize for Restorative Dentistry. Following his qualification, he spent 6 years gaining experience in a dental clinic in Essex before buying his own practice in 2004. Dr O’Connor quickly added a second location in 2006 and formed the Oak Dental Group.

After returning to Ireland in 2013, he set up Killiney Dental with his long-time partner Rosemarie. Gerald has a wealth of experience in dentistry with a vested interest in modern, evidence-based solutions. He enjoys implementing new dental treatments that are minimally invasive for patients without compromising their desire for an idealised smile. Dr O’Connor currently serves on the Irish Dental Association’s Quality and Patient Safety Committee. In his spare time, he enjoys films, music, fiction writing and being anywhere in sight of the sea.