Treatment with braces can produce a beautiful smile when you care for that smile along the way. It’s always important to maintain proper oral hygiene, but even more so while in treatment wearing braces. Poor oral hygiene can lead to swollen gums, gum disease, and gingivitis with braces. This could complicate your braces treatment, and braces with swollen gums could make proper hygiene even more difficult. If caught early, gum disease is usually easy to treat. If ignored, you may end up with gum disease, infection, and even tooth loss. 

Oltjen Orthodontics wants you to be thrilled with your new smile. Part of that involves keeping your gums as healthy as your teeth before, during, and after treatment. Regular checkups are essential during your treatment, as is proper hygiene. Here are some things that can cause swollen gums during treatment and some things you can do to prevent and care for swollen gums.

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‘I Have Braces, and My Gums Are Swollen’

There are several possible causes for having swollen gums while wearing braces from brackets on the gums irritating the tissue,  to gum disease from poor hygiene. Whatever the cause, there are different treatment options are available for the different causes. 

Poor Hygiene

  • Gingivitis With Braces: Gingivitis is an early stage of gum disease that is reversible if caught and treated early. Signs of gingivitis include swollen gums, red gums, bleeding with brushing and flossing, and soreness. Gingivitis is caused by the buildup of plaque and tartar on the teeth. The bacteria from the plaque can cause tooth decay. It can also cause your gums to become inflamed, leading to gingivitis. If you suspect gingivitis, contact your dentist or orthodontist right away. They will most likely recommend you schedule an appointment for a thorough dental cleaning. Once your teeth have been cleaned it will be up to you to keep up with proper oral hygiene. 
  • Advanced Periodontitis With Braces: If gingivitis isn’t treated quickly and properly, it can advance to periodontitis. This can cause pain, infections, and eventual tooth loss if the gums pull away from the teeth. Because your teeth are already moving, the lack of support from the gums may loosen them more and cause them to fall out. Periodontitis is very serious and should be treated right away.
  • Heavy Plaque on Braces: Plaque is created from bacteria and food remnants that form a sticky film on your teeth and gums. That heavy film can eat away at your tooth enamel and inflame your gums. This can eventually lead to tooth decay and gingivitis. Plaque buildup can also harden into tartar, which can only be removed safely by a dental cleaning. Tartar can also form under the gumline, inflame your gums, and possibly cause an infection.
  • Poor Brushing With Braces: It’s important to keep up with regular dental cleanings during your treatment so that your dentist can remove tartar that may have built up. If left on the teeth, the tartar can cause the gums to pull away from the teeth creating little pockets where plaque and food particles can hide and cause gingivitis and infection. Tartar and plaque build-up can be reduced or eliminated with proper brushing and flossing. Poor brushing and flossing with braces can lead to puffy gums and gum disease.
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Braces on Gums

In some instances, your braces will cause your gums to swell. In most cases, this happens just after your braces are put on your teeth. Inflamed gums from braces happen because your teeth are being moved for the first time.  That sudden pressure can cause your gums to be tender. Swelling, tenderness, and redness of the gums usually lasts for a few days but may last up to a week. As your mouth gets used to your teeth moving, this will subside. After your braces are tightened you may also experience some minor swelling as your teeth continue to move. This usually goes away after a couple of days. 

On rare occasions, you may have swollen gums due to a wire or bracket irritating and pressing into your gums. If this is the case, let us know right away. We can provide soft wax to put on the bracket which will help prevent further irritation. The wax serves as a barrier between your gums and the bracket, allowing the gum to heal. If the bracket is still rubbing your gums, contact us, and we’ll have you come in so that we can take a look at your braces.

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Post-Braces Gums Issues

You may experience gum swelling after your braces are removed. This is common because there is a lot of movement going on in your mouth as we remove your braces! It’s also tougher to keep your teeth and gums clean with braces. Despite your best efforts, you may experience some irritations to your gums from plaque or tartar buildup. We recommend you visit your dentist immediately after your braces are removed for a thorough cleaning so that you can show off clean, tartar-free, gorgeous teeth! It will also give the dentist a chance to check for gum disease unencumbered. 

Once your braces are off, you’ll be fitted with retainers to keep your teeth in place. Depending on the types of retainers, even with proper brushing and flossing, you may find it more difficult to keep your teeth clean. You’ll also find that plaque can build up pretty quickly under your retainers which may cause a little gum swelling, gum bleeding, or redness on your gums. If you’re having difficulty brushing and flossing with your retainers, let us know! If you have a lot of plaque buildup with removable retainers, you may need to increase brushing to three times a day or after every meal. Don’t worry — we can work with you to make sure your gums stay healthy, even after your braces! 

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How to Get Rid of Swollen Gums With Braces

The easiest way to prevent swollen gums while wearing braces is to maintain great oral hygiene. This is will also help to prevent gum disease, including gingivitis and periodontitis. 

If you are experiencing swollen gums, warm salt water can soothe sore gums after braces are put on or are tightened. It’s also advisable to eat soft foods for the first few days because hard foods may impact or jar your gums, making them sorer. If the warm salt water doesn’t help, you may take an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory, such as ibuprofen, to reduce the pain and swelling. 

Make sure you floss regularly with unwaxed floss or a Waterpik. Brush your teeth with a soft-bristled brush, which is gentler on the gums. Keep up your regular dental cleanings, and contact your dentist if you suspect you have the beginning stages of gum disease. Contact your dentist or orthodontist if your gums appear to be growing over your teeth. 

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How to Improve Gum Health With Braces

Once you get your braces off, you’ll be amazed at how much easier it is to brush and floss your teeth compared to before your orthodontic treatment. Straight, properly-spaced teeth are so much easier to keep clean! It’s also easier to keep your gums pink and healthy! 

You have that beautiful smile you’ve worked so hard to get. Now, let’s make sure you keep it! Keep a regular brushing and flossing schedule — at least twice a day — and visit your dentist regularly for checkups and cleanings. Great oral hygiene habits will keep your teeth and gums healthy for years to come! 

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