Flossing every day is particularly important while wearing braces.

If you’re an adolescent or an adult who recently got metal braces, you might wonder how to floss or whether you should even try. The risk of developing a cavity goes up due to food particles that get trapped in the braces, bands, and wires in your mouth. The end result of not flossing could be plaque buildup and gingivitis.

Spending a little extra time on dental care if you’re a patient or the parent of one can pay off in a wonderful smile when those braces are removed. Orthodontists are fitting children as young as 7 with braces, and many will wear them well into their teens. Flossing is a bit tricky, but practice helps. These five tips on how to floss with braces will make the process easier:

Tip 1: Use Waxed Floss

Non-waxed dental floss is more likely to catch on braces than its waxed cousin. It can leave shreds of floss behind.

Tip 2: Help Younger Children

Young orthodontic patients don’t have as much dexterity as teenagers or adults and usually need help to floss. The easiest way to accomplish this is to have the child sit or kneel in an area that’s well-lit. If you have trouble getting the youngster to remain still, choose a spot where it’s possible to listen to music or view a favorite show while you accomplish the flossing.

Tip 3: Consider a Threader

Many patients liken maneuvering dental floss between teeth to trying to thread a needle. One inexpensive alternative is an orthodontic floss threader. You can find it in most stores that sell toothbrushes and other dental products. This tool lets you pull floss through your teeth above wires and reach your gum line.

Tip 4: Use the Right Movement

If you opt to pass on a floss threader, make sure you thread floss behind the wire of your braces. In either case, grab the floss and pull it down between your teeth, repeating for each tooth. The temptation is to snap the dental floss. When wearing braces, you must gently move it up and down, making sure it touches the side of every tooth.

Tip 5: Be Aware of All Your Options

Some orthodontists and dentists recommend a Waterpik for patients with braces. If you choose this option, be sure to clean the reservoir on a regular basis to prevent bacteria buildup. Some patients prefer using dental tape over regular floss. This tape is actually a special kind of floss designed to be wide and thin, much like a small ribbon. The application technique is the same as that used for regular dental floss. However, tape can be more comfortable than traditional floss for individuals who experience tooth or gum pain. You can also ask about the possibility of using two specialized tools, a proxy brush, and an orthodontic brush.