Anyone who was lucky enough to have braces during childhood or adolescence has likely enjoyed a straight and beautiful smile for years afterward. Although most orthodontists suggest prolonged or permanent use of removable retainers following braces, few people maintain the routine.

Whether you doubted your teeth would continue to move or just grew tired of wearing your retainers, it’s likely that your teeth have moved since you got your braces off. If you look closely, you might even notice the return of old gaps and even some new ones making an appearance.

But what do these gaps between teeth mean for your dental health?

Hard-to-Reach Spaces

Any place in your mouth that’s difficult to reach with a toothbrush proves susceptible to decay. Gaps between teeth aren’t uncommon, and braces help to close those spaces. But after braces come off, teeth sometimes move and create new gaps.

Large gaps typically aren’t cause for worry since the bristles of your toothbrush easily fit inside the bigger space. In addition, large gaps in between the incisors (or front teeth) prove easy to monitor through visual checks and flossing.

Gaps mainly become a problem when your mouth develops small gaps in hard-to-reach and hard-to-see places. Places in between your teeth that were once tight may now have opened up due to any lapse in retainer wearing. Even with religious retainer usage, some people still experience a “settling” of sorts in between their teeth.

The space in between molars shows a particular ability to trap and harbor food bits and other cavitycausing debris. As these new gaps take shape and begin to catch pieces of the meals you eat, your teeth develop a cozy space for bacteria to hide in.

When reaching these sites with your toothbrush proves difficult or impossible, it’s time to combat the issue with customized dental care.

Mind the Gap(s)

Even with regular brushing, spaces and gaps between molars require more attention than you might think. If you notice new or existing gaps in these areas, take the following steps to protect yourself from preventable tooth decay.

1. Floss Daily

Pay attention to the gaps in between your teeth. After eating, run your tongue along each gap to feel for trapped food. If your tongue cannot free the debris, use floss to clear the area. Floss each day or even after each meal to keep the area clean and free of food.

2. Use an Interdental Brush

Dentists created this floss-type brush for use in between teeth. By using this brush along with your regular daily brushing and flossing routine, you ensure that your gums and teeth remain free of cavitycausing debris.

3. Rinse Your Mouth Often

Mouth wash and other antimicrobial solutions help to clean every part of your mouth, even when regular brushing cannot. However, the simple act of rinsing your mouth with water after every meal also helps you to wash away any food pieces that might stick in your teeth otherwise.

4. Visit Your Dentist

As much as the above tips help, you should visit your dentist regularly to ensure that your teeth (and their respective gaps) receive the attention they need. If you’re concerned about cleaning newfound gaps on your own, consult a professional.

Dentists have the necessary knowledge and specified tools to deal with a variety of issues, including small, large, and hard-to-reach gaps. The spaces in between molars require careful attention, so make your dentist aware of any concerns you may have.

Some dentists may also offer permanent retainers or similar devices to correct and minimize minor gaps. Ask your dentist about such options, and use the above steps to deal with post-braces space.