If you've just gotten braces as an adult, you might not realize that your daily brushing and flossing routine is now one of your most important self-care strategies. Not only does the brushing and flossing help your general oral health, but they also help your teeth move more easily and with fewer complications. If you don't brush and floss -- both of those, and not just brushing -- your braces could end up becoming more of an albatross than an advantage.
Calcifications and Staining
Braces make it easy for bits of food to hide right next to the surface of your teeth, out of reach of your toothbrush and floss if you're not very careful. The continued contact between the food and your tooth enamel can lead to calcifications, or white spots, and staining. These are permanent and don't go away without cosmetic intervention. That means that when the braces eventually come off, you'll have these spots that mar your smile. Even if the spots are small, you'll know they're there. Brushing and flossing carefully each day can help reduce, if not completely eliminate, the chances of developing these spots.
Not brushing and flossing properly can lead to plaque formation, which is not only a cavity risk, but also an interference risk. Plaque deposits can physically interfere with your tooth movement, making the braces' job much harder. The result is that you have to wear the braces for longer and keep going back to the orthodontist for more and more checkups. The orthodontist can spot the plaque, but if you're one of the many patients who isn't going back as often as needed (this is fairly common), then the orthodontist doesn't have much of an opportunity to help you.
Cavities and Bone Loss
And speaking of cavities, if you don't brush and floss well, you could develop cavities and bone loss in your jaw, as well as gum inflammation, that make your teeth less predictable in how they move. The teeth may need to be filled, which can be tricky when you have all the brace metal around them, or you could end up needing a root canal, or even an extraction-- all of which can interfere with how the braces move your teeth.
Start looking at your brushing and flossing routine now. Ensure that you're brushing correctly -- your dentist or orthodontist can go over technique with you again -- and that you are flossing thoroughly. You should also go see your orthodontist frequently so he or she can adjust the braces more often.