Chances are, if you go to the dentist to get your teeth cleaned, you are likely familiar with the term plaque. What is plaque buildup on teeth, and what causes plaque? Let’s take a look at this dental devil — what it is and how you can prevent it to preserve your oral health.
What Is Plaque Buildup on Teeth?
Plaque is the sticky film of bacteria that forms on teeth. The bacteria in plaque produce acids after you eat or drink anything. These acids are destructive to tooth enamel and can lead to cavities and gingivitis (gum disease).
Plaque can also form below the gum line on the tooth roots, ultimately breaking down the bones that support the teeth. When plaque is not removed, it hardens and becomes a substance called tartar which is difficult to remove. Tartar is rough and porous. If it isn’t removed, it can lead to receding gums and gum disease. It must be eliminated with special tools found only in the dentist’s office.
Experts say there are some ways to prevent the worst from happening. If you have a solid brushing and flossing routine and follow it diligently, this is the best way to remove plaque and minimize the formation of tartar.
What Causes Plaque?
Plaque develops when the bacteria that are present in your mouth mix with the foods you eat. Sugary and starchy foods, in particular, aid the bacteria in releasing acids. These acids are useful for breaking down the carbohydrates in food and drink. However, they can also lead to the formation of a sticky film of plaque on the teeth.
Why Is Plaque Harmful?
Everybody gets plaque, but just because it is normal doesn’t mean it is healthy. It’s best to remove it as soon as possible. If you have sloppy oral hygiene, the plaque on your teeth will continue to grow — and you may find yourself with declining oral health. Not treating plaque can lead to the formation of cavities on the teeth. When plaque is left to lurk, it will produce acids that can damage your tooth enamel — the outermost layer of your teeth.
Forming cavities is only the beginning. Not getting rid of plaque can lead to gingivitis which is the early stage of gum disease. If gingivitis is left untreated, you can find yourself with a more serious stage of gum disease called periodontitis. This can lead to serious problems including tooth loss.
How Do You Know If You Have Plaque on Your Teeth?
If you experience a fuzzy feeling on your teeth, that is usually a sign that plaque is present. Bad breath and red, swollen gums are other signs that you have plaque. Plaque is difficult to see because it is often colorless. If you look closely at your teeth and notice a hard, yellowish material between your teeth, this is usually an indicator that the plaque on your teeth has hardened into tartar. This stubborn substance can only be removed with the professional dental tools you’ll find at your dentist.
How Can You Prevent Plaque From Forming?
Taking good care of your oral health is the best defense against the formation of plaque. Get yourself into a good routine that prioritizes your oral health.
- Brush at least twice a day, in the morning and at night — and preferably after every meal. Brush your teeth for a solid two minutes. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste. You can use an electric toothbrush or a manual toothbrush. However, since many electric toothbrushes have timers, it can be easier to brush for the full two minutes.
- Floss at least once a day. Use dental floss — whatever kind you prefer — or a water flosser to remove food and plaque that gets stuck between your teeth.
- Chew sugarless gum — especially if you can’t brush right after eating or drinking. Choose a gum that has the American Dental Association seal.
- Follow a nutrient-rich, healthy diet that is low in sugary, starchy foods and drinks. Skip the junk food and instead choose nutritious foods and snacks such as plain yogurt, cheese, raw vegetables, or fruit that promote good overall — and oral — health.
- Rinse with mouthwash. Use either an over-the-counter or prescription mouthwash.
- Avoid smoking and using tobacco products. These are not only bad for your overall health and wellbeing, but they can contribute to the formation of plaque and tartar.
- Visit your dentist regularly. Regular examinations and professional cleanings are an essential part of maintaining good oral health.
Don’t let plaque buildup on your teeth risk your good oral health. Book an appointment at West Coast Dental today!
Cleveland Clinic — Dental Plaque
Humana — How to Reduce Dental Plaque
American Dental Association — Gum