Oral Hygiene for Braces and Bridges

Preventing dental problems

Orthodontic braces and dental bridges can be especially difficult to clean, because there is no easy way to get between the teeth. Orthodontic arch wires and brackets create barriers that make it difficult to adapt a toothbrush to the exposed surfaces of the teeth, and to clean along the gum line. Likewise, the teeth of a bridge are fused together, so you can’t use floss to clean between them. There is a significant risk of developing tooth decay on the abutment teeth—on the side that faces the pontic—if you don’t clean effectively under the bridge every day. The above video, while directed at people who wear braces, is also very applicable to patients with bridges.


Fortunately, special brushes and floss tools are available to simplify the task, and can be a big help in preventing cavities and gum disease for patients with braces or bridges, and are typically available at a drug or convenience store. If you find these devices difficult to use, or if you have trouble finding them in a store, ask your dental professional for their recommendations.

  • Floss threaders: A floss threader is a flexible, yet rigid plastic tool for passing dental floss under fixed bridgework, behind orthodontic wires, and beneath removable denture retainer bars. For more information, see the article and video How to Use a Floss Threader.
  • Interdental brushes: Interdental brushes are special cone-shaped cleaning devices which are available in many sizes. For more information, see the article and video How to Use an Interdental Brush
  • Toothpicks: Although they may not be as effective as floss threaders or interdental brushes, toothpicks are readily available, and are much better than neglecting to clean under your bridge or braces.
  • Oral irrigators: Oral irrigators are good at removing bulk food debris, but are largely ineffective at removing the filmy plaque (biofilm) that adheres to teeth and is loaded with bacteria.

Author: Thomas J. Greany, D.D.S.
Editor: Ken Lambrecht
This page was reviewed by members of our review board.

This page was last updated on July 1, 2016.

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