Teenagers and Braces A Recipe For Family Arguments?


Why Do Braces Cause Arguments At Home?

Braces are  a common feature of the teenage years, they help create stable, beautiful healthy smiles for the long term. However the process can be a bit stressful and lead to a few family arguments  along the way!   Hopefully this post will help to avoid some of these arguments in your house.

I have played referee on more occasions that I can count between parent and child on the subject of cleaning teeth around braces.  Dentists know, and most parents fear, that  poor brushing technique  or lack of brushing  will lead to early tooth decay developing around braces.  If plaque around braces is not removed the teeth may be straight at the end of treatment but can also have demineralised chalky white areas that are visible around where the brackets were fixed in place. These demineralised areas are more at risk of absorbing stains or at worst breaking down into decay. While treatments are available for this they are not always 100% successful so as ever, prevention is far better than cure.

Orthodontists and their teams do stress to every patient  the importance of day to day home care. Ultimately  though, they cannot there  every day to check tooth brushing  so the responsibility for keeping the teeth brushed and free from plaque rests with the wearer of the brace.  This is where the arguments tend to start, when parents who are rightly concerned  provide a healthy dose of well intentioned “reminders” to brush. This  my son tells me  can sometimes sound a lot like  “nagging,”  although I of course would see it differently!

At an appointment with us as the  family dentist,   we are frequently asked to take on the  umpires role and divine…….. are the teeth clean or not?  This places us in a tricky spot, knowing exactly why Mum / Dad are asking but also aiming to keep our brace wearing teenager on side.  The argument usually goes something like “I keep telling him / her to brush his / her teeth, ” followed by the retort  “I DO brush my teeth”  ….so who is right and how can we repair family harmony at this point?

Plaque is not always easy to see until it is really well formed and “lumpy” on the teeth. I would also wager to suggest that at the times of the day that most teenagers are examining their teeth they may not be at their observant best. Interestingly most of our young patients who wear braces do think that their teeth are clean and claim to have spent time brushing. What we see in reality in that the same areas bet brushed every day and similarly the same areas get missed.

To settle this argument and hopefully restore domestic peace and quiet I do recommend enlisting the services of a hygienist who provides a treatment approach called Guided Biofilm Therapy  or GBT for short.   Here is a quick walk through of what it involves and how our hygiene team use it to help motivate encourage and help our brace wearing a patients.

Guided Biofilm Therapy / GBT / Disclosing
Three tone disclosing solution showing areas of young and old plaque build up.

Here we see a 3 tone disclosing solution in use, pale pink shows plaque that is new, dark blue shows old plaque that has been there for more than 24 hours and the yellow/ green /pale blue ( depending on your monitor) shows area where the area is highly acidic, which means conditions are right for tooth decay at this moment.

You can see areas where the teeth are really clean – like above the upper front tooth and areas where the teeth are really coated with bacteria. This alone solves arguments as to whether the teeth are adequately cleaned or not, but more importantly allows  us to demonstrate to our patient exactly how to use a brush to get rid of it.

The purpose of disclosing is not to give Mum or Dad “it told you so rights” but to help us educate the person with the brace as to exactly what the scale of the problem is.

teeth with disclosing solution on the top teeth and the lower teeth cleaned
After Airflow cleaning on the lower teeth.

Next stage is to wipe out all of the bacteria ( called biofilm)   for this we use a technology called Airflow which relies on air, water  warmed to body temperature to avoid sensitivity and an antibacterial powder called Erythritol to completely clean the teeth.

Here you can see  the lower teeth all cleaned up. The process is fast and painless,  from a patients perspective the teeth “feel” great afterwards.  There is some research that suggests results extend beyond the simple act of cleaning the teeth and  that the powder we use helps to reduce the rate at which bacteria multiply and re grow on the teeth after Guided Biofilm Therapy.

white teeth with braces on but no plaque present
Clean Teeth after completion of GBT

Finally here is the whole  GBT  treatment completed, with  all bacteria gone and a clean fresh healthy mouth. Our hygiene team can typically achieve a result like this with a teenage patient wearing braces in just 20 -30 minutes.

The main aim is to help the patient look after things more effectively day to day themselves but  the full airflow clean  up also gives you as a parent  the reassurance that at least today the teeth are cleaned to perfection!

If you are curious to know more take a look at the Guided Biofilm Therapy page on our main  website, or just ask any of our clinical team who will be more than happy to share their knowledge.