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Wear & Care

Your Smile Journey

Tips, Tricks & Rules for Wearing Braces


As a new wearer of braces, you may find some challenges along the way. Your orthodontist and the entire team at ARCH are here to help, from your first appointment until the very last time you take out your retainer. We want you to begin this adventure well informed and knowing what to expect, so here’s a handy guide to get you started.

Let us take the guesswork and confusion out of orthodontic care. We’re always here to help make your treatment as simple, comfortable, and affordable as possible. Call ARCH today for straight talk about achieving straight teeth.


When it comes to wearing braces, there are five major suggestions you may follow to help your orthodontic treatment progress as quickly and comfortably as possible. You have the most important role in this process. When you follow these suggestions you will finish with braces quickly and beautifully.

  1. Gum Chewing
    Gum should be avoided. It can pull brackets off the surface of your teeth, which slows down treatment. This same rule applies to all gooey, sticky foods – that includes chewy candy like taffy or caramel. We are concerned with the cavities these candies can promote.
  2. Hard Foods
    Hard fruits and vegetables should be cut into pieces. For example, instead of biting into a raw carrot, be sure to cut the carrot into thin sticks. Always cut meat off the bone to avoid popping off a bracket while eating ribs, wings, or similar foods. Similarly, you should never, ever try to crack nuts open with your teeth.
  3. Brush, Floss, Fluoride Every Day
    Braces contain lots of nooks and crannies where food can get stuck and promote bacterial growth, so good hygiene is very important. You can keep your mouth healthy and clean by brushing with a soft toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste for 5 minutes after every meal or snack, and again before you go to sleep at night. Your final brushing of the day should be followed with an over-the-counter fluoride rinse – and don’t forget to floss daily! We recommend superfloss, which can be easily threaded through braces. Above all we recommend the ARCH Rule of 5’s as the tooth brushing technique. Click here to download our Brushing Rule of 5’s instructions.
  4. If Braces Break or Become Loose, Please Call Us At Once
    Although a broken bracket or loose wire isn’t an emergency unless you’re in pain, they may affect the amount of time we need for your next appointment. Give us a call so we can plan accordingly.
  5. Wear Your Elastics All the Time
    If your doctor asks you to wear elastics, you will need to wear them all the time, even during meals, and change them every 24 hours. If you have any trouble with your elastics fitting properly, call us immediately to schedule an appointment so you don’t lose progress. If you lose or run out of elastics, let us know right away so we can provide a new supply or mail you replacements.

Once you have your braces put on, you will go through a period of adjustment. It’s not uncommon for patients’ mouths to feel uncomfortable for the first couple days, but we promise it won’t last forever! During the day, we recommend Tylenol, it is effective and well tolerated.  Should you choose to use Advil or similar pain reliever, make sure you take the medicine with food to prevent stomach upset.  

Many patients also find rinsing with warm saltwater to be soothing. Simply dissolve one teaspoon of salt into eight ounces of warm (NOT scalding) water, then swish and gargle the solution for a couple minutes (do not swallow the saltwater!). It is not uncommon for your lips, cheeks, and tongue to become irritated while they’re getting used to your new braces. We do provide you with some wax to cover offending brackets or wires and help make you more comfortable.

Sometimes, patients may also feel their teeth starting to become a little loose. If this happens, don’t worry! It’s normal for teeth to loosen up during orthodontic treatment. This happens as they prepare to move into their new position. Wires and bands may come loose occasionally as well. If this happens, please contact us as soon as possible so we can check and repair your appliance. In the meantime, you can temporarily move the wire back into place by gently pushing it with the back of a spoon or a the eraser end of a pencil. Damaged appliances can increase the length of your treatment process, so it’s important that you follow the suggestions above and take good care of them. If you play sports, wear a mouthguard. Just ask for one at the office and we will be delighted to give you a mouth guard that will enable tooth movement. If something happens to your braces, always let us know right away so we can make repairs and get you back on track. If any pieces break off, be sure to bring them into the office with you.

You should take care to maintain a balanced diet throughout the course of your orthodontic treatment. The following suggested foods are soft and easy to eat, a big plus at the beginning of treatment until you get used to your teeth moving toward your fabulous smile!  

  • Soup, yogurt, pudding, or Jell-O
  • Pasta (spaghetti, lasagna, macaroni & cheese, etc.)
  • Eggs (omelets, scrambled, quiche, etc.)
  • Cheese (hard & soft, cottage cheese, blintzes, cheese cubes, etc.)
  • Rice, potatoes, or cooked vegetables
  • Salads (tuna, salmon, egg, etc.)
  • Pancakes or French toast
  • Milkshakes
  • Fish, soft meats, or poultry (not on the bone)
  • Canned or soft fruit
  • Peanut butter
  • Cereals (cold oatmeal)

A lip bumper may be used to hold the lower large back molar teeth in correct position. This appliance slides into the tubes attached to the bands placed on your teeth, and the forward wire sits close to the lower teeth inside the lips and cheeks.  

When brushing after meals and before bed, you should turn the toothbrush into the lip bumper wire and brush it well, remembering to also brush under the tubes near your gums. Your appliance may feel “tight” in the beginning, too. This feeling usually only lasts 2-3 days, but let us know if it lasts longer so we can make adjustments.

When it’s time for your braces come off, you’ll be fitted with a retainer to help your new smile stay in its corrected position. It is best to remove your retainers when brushing and please be sure to follow all instructions for wear and care. For the first few days with your retainers, you may experience some soreness and/or difficulty speaking. These reactions are normal, and will disappear quickly. If you have any questions call us – we love to answer your concerns. It may be necessary in some situations to schedule an appointment and you will certainly be able to do that when you call.   

Unless your doctor tells you otherwise, you should wear your retainer all the time, even while eating and sleeping. You should take it out to clean it when you brush and floss your teeth. After about 9 months, when the roots are “set,” you can start wearing your retainer only while you sleep, but we will follow your retention progress to give you the sleep only instruction.

You can clean your retainer by brushing it on both sides with toothpaste and you may occasionally use denture cleanser and warm water. NEVER put your retainer in boiling water, and never wash it in the dishwasher or microwave; the form fitting plastic will distort and not fit properly. When it’s not in your mouth, your retainer should stay in its case, kept away from pets – dogs especially love to chew the appliances!

If you are given headgear as part of your treatment, we recommend that you wear the appliance for a minimum of 12-14 hours every day. The more you wear your headgear, the more effective it will be – and the quicker you’ll be done with it! We’ll see you in the office every 6-10 weeks to make adjustments and check the device’s force and positioning. You will need to bring your headgear with you to every appointment.

Occasionally, a band may come loose, interfering with the head gear’s proper fit. If this happens, call us immediately to schedule an appointment so we can fix the band. Do not wear your headgear again until we have made these necessary repairs.

It is rare to have a true orthodontic emergency, but when they do occur, we are always available to you. We maintain a 24 hour answering service and staff are on call for your emergency needs. You should call the office if you experience severe pain, or if you have severe discomfort as a result of appliance problems you can’t take care of yourself. Most often a conversation and some simple instructions are all that are needed to resolve the issue. Call us… you are part of the ARCH family and we delight in serving you.

When these situations arise, we are committed to taking care of our patients. If it becomes necessary for you to see an ARCH doctor somewhere other than your usual office, rest assured that we are able to easily access records from any of our locations throughout the greater Boston area.

If you are given a palatal expander as part of your orthodontic treatment, you will need to learn how to make adjustments to the appliance according to your orthodontist’s instructions.  It may be necessary to have a helper for this process, such as a parent or guardian.

Here’s a quick guide to palatal expander adjusting:

  1. In a well-lit area, tip the patient’s head back.
  2. Place the key in the hole until it is firmly in place.
  3. Pushing the key down toward the back of the mouth, you will notice the spindle will rotate and the new hole will appear. The rotation stops when the key meets the back of the expander.
  4. By letting the key almost slide out while gently keeping it pushed back and down toward the tongue, remove the key. The next hole for insertion of the key should remain completely visible.

Click here to download these instructions!

Having trouble? Want to know more? Ask for more tips at your next appointment. One of our doctors will be happy to walk you through the process.

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