While a skilled orthodontist will be the best friend of any individual opting to take the plunge and consider straightening their smile, it’s also of huge importance for a patient to play a key role in the success of the transformation. According to Dr Owen Crotty, Principal Specialist Orthodontist at Crotty Orthodontics, there are a number of essential steps you yourself can take to ensure you get the most positive, long-lasting results from your braces. 

Now that we’ve got your attention, here are Dr Crotty’s top 5 tips for achieving – and maintaining – that dazzling new smile.  

1. Make sure the teeth are healthy from the outset.

“I always emphasise to patients beginning or undergoing their orthodontic journey the importance of attending appointments with their regular dentist. There’s no point in straightening the teeth if the teeth or mouth aren’t healthy to begin with. This is an issue that will need to be addressed before any orthodontic work commences. An orthodontist will focus on one aspect of your overall oral health, while the dentist will be looking at more general aspects of it. I’m very strict on this – a dentist’s work and an orthodontist’s work go very much hand in hand.”  

2. Be aware of the risks associated with braces – and how to avoid them 

“As with any transformative treatment, there can be minimal risks involved, but many of these can be avoided by following the advice of your orthodontist. Adhering to standard procedure in terms of cleaning and diet control is hugely important, as neglecting this could leave you with marks on your teeth. In terms of cleaning and hygiene, it’s up to the patient to manage these aspects.”

3. Adapt your regular brushing routine to suit your braces

“As a general rule, there are two aspects that need to be monitored in order to keep your teeth in healthy shape; one is your dietary habits and the other is how you’re actually cleaning the teeth. Your diet should hopefully be in a good place before you start orthodontic treatment, so ideally this shouldn’t have to change too much, but the cleaning routine will have to change. This is particularly relevant in the case of fixed braces, because you will now have things stuck on the teeth, which make them more difficult to clean. Ensure that you achieve the maximum results from your daily dental hygiene routine by brushing for three to four minutes every morning and evening using a fluoride toothpaste. After every meal, at the very least rinse your mouth with plain water to dislodge residual food.”

3. Enhance your new and improved brushing routine by making positive dietary choices

When wearing braces, it’s imperative to avoid anything that’s overly sticky or chewy, and biting hard foods. This is particularly applicable to children and teenagers and to those wearing fixed braces. In terms of clear aligners, these need to be taken out for eating (and cleaning), so if you’re having a cup of coffee or glass of wine, you need to be aware that they need to be removed first. Once you’re in the habit of doing this, it becomes second nature and you can slip them out really easily.”

4. Wear your retainer to retain those beautiful results!

“The most important thing to do once the braces come off is to wear your retainer. You’ll always be given a retainer and the hint is in the term: ‘retain’. Teeth move all the way through life, but they move most rapidly immediately after braces are removed and when you’re a teenager. They move more slowly as you get older, so you can gradually reduce your retainer wear as time goes on. An analogy I use is, if I gave you a magic pillow and told you that using that magic pillow once a week would reduce wrinkles or greying hair, you’d be sure to use that pillow once a week! It’s like that with your retainer: if you use the retainer as prescribed, you’ll reduce the risk of your teeth overcrowding. It mightn’t stop it altogether, but it’ll make it so small and so manageable that it will help you massively in the long run.”

Dr Owen Crotty has been the Principal Specialist Orthodontist at Crotty Orthodontics since 1992. Aside from overseeing a practice in both Douglas and Clonakilty in Cork, he regularly delivers lectures on orthodontics around the world. Dr. Crotty is a Clinical Lecturer for Invisalign, is a member of their Specialist Advisory Board for Ireland and the UK and is a member of the Invisalign Growing Patients Global group. He is an active member of the Orthodontic Society of Ireland; the Irish Dental Association; the British Orthodontic Association; the American Association of Orthodontists; the Societa di Italiana di Ortodonzia; and the European Orthodontic Association. Dr Crotty has also recently become a member of The Invisible Orthodontist; the largest network of specialist orthodontists in the world. For more information, visit www.crottyorthodontics.ie.