Braces can be a great long-term investment in your own smile or your child’s smile. While it’s not always fun to wear braces, there’s no feeling like finally getting them taken off and seeing your new, better-looking grin for the first time. But it takes a little extra work to keep your teeth clean and healthy when you have braces. These tips will help you or your child avoid tooth decay until the braces come off.

1. Make smart food choices.

Food will get caught in braces if you’re not careful, and some foods are riskier than others. Avoid sticky foods like toffee, and cut hard foods like raw vegetables into bite-sized pieces before eating them.

2. Avoid acidic or sugary drinks.

Coffee, alcoholic beverages, soda (both diet and full-sugar), and tea can all damage your teeth. And when you have braces on, the acids and sugars in these drinks can stay trapped on your teeth for long periods of time. Stick to water whenever you can, and get into the habit of rinsing your mouth with water after drinking acidic beverages.

3. Brush and floss your teeth every day.

Braces or no braces, the best thing you can do to prevent tooth decay is to clean your teeth on a regular basis. Use a toothpaste that contains fluoride. Brush each of your teeth gently but thoroughly with a soft-bristled toothbrush, making sure to scrub every part of the tooth you can reach. Pay special attention to the area under your braces to ensure your brush gets underneath the wires. Brush your teeth at least twice a day. Floss, using a floss threader if necessary, at least once a day.

Braces pose an extra challenge when it comes to preventing tooth decay. You can keep your teeth healthy and beautiful by choosing the right food and drinks, as well as by paying close attention to your oral hygiene.