You know how important it is for you to brush, floss, and rinse your mouth to prevent plaque and tartar buildup. But do you know why? What is plaque? How does it get on your teeth? And what can happen if it does? Get the facts right about the plaque on teeth and understand what harm it can do to your teeth.
Plaque is a sticky film that forms on your teeth every morning. Do you know that slippery coating you feel when you first wake up?
Scientists call plaque a ‘biofilm’ because it is a community of living microbes. The sticky coating on your teeth helps the microbes attach to surfaces so they can grow into thriving microcolonies.
What is Plaque on Teeth?
Dental plaque is a colorless or dull yellow sticky film that is constantly forming on your teeth. When the saliva, food, and drinks combine, plaque starts to build up. Plaque contains bacteria that forms between your teeth and along the gum line.
The bacteria present in plaque feed on sugars and carbs, producing acid as they metabolize the sugars. The acids can then damage your enamel and the roots of your teeth. All this would lead to tooth decay and gum disease.
Plaque on teeth begins to form 4 to 12 hours after brushing teeth. This is why it is so important to brush your teeth thoroughly at least twice a day and floss regularly.
When this plaque is not regularly removed, it can accumulate minerals from your saliva and the food. Its accumulated minerals harden into a yellow or off-white substance called tartar.
Tartar also builds up along your gum line on the front and back surface of your teeth. Many times attentive flossing might dislodge some plaque and tartar buildup. But you will probably need to visit a dentist to get rid of it completely.
The good news is that if you thoroughly brush, floss, rinse with a mouthwash, and make trips to your dentist, you should be able to keep the growth of plaque to a minimum. And also maintain the health of your mouth.
How Can Plaque on Teeth Affect Your Oral Health?
Plaque is the root cause of many of your oral health issues. The bacteria in plaque produce acids that not only attack tooth enamel, causing cavities and tooth decay but it also affects your gums.
The bacteria in plaque are also responsible for causing the early stages of gum disease called gingivitis. Plaque can also contribute to bad breath and can make your teeth look yellow and dingy.
If you do not regularly remove plaque on your teeth by proper brushing and flossing, it will mineralize into tartar. Tartar is a hard, yellow, or brown deposit on your teeth that tightly adheres to the surface and can only be removed by your dentist.
If plaque is not removed, it can lead to more serious gum disease like periodontal disease. Fighting plaque is the most critical factor not only in protecting and preserving your teeth but also your gums for a lifetime.
Who may be more likely to get plaque on teeth? Every one of you can get plaque; you may develop more plaque than usual if you regularly consume a lot of sugary or starchy foods or drinks.
You also have the chance of developing plaque if you have a dry mouth due to medications or have a history of head or neck radiation. Moreover, smoking can also affect the plaque formation process.
If you want to prevent plaque buildup, you should eat a balanced diet and limit the number of between-meal snacks. If you need a snack, choose healthy, nutritious foods such as plain yogurt, cheese, fruit, or even raw vegetables.
Do you know that vegetables like celery can help remove food particles from your teeth? It can also help saliva neutralize the plaque-causing acids in your mouth.
Plaque on Teeth Leads to Tartar Buildup
Over time, if you do not remove the plaque on a regular basis, minerals from your saliva are deposited into the plaque biofilm. This will cause it to harden within 24 to 72 hours, turning into tartar. There are chances that you can try removing plaque at home, but tartar removal requires the help of your dentist.
In fact, 68% of adults have tartar? Tartar is a yellow or brown-colored deposit that forms when plaque hardens on your tooth surface. Because tartar buildup on your teeth is strongly bonded to the tooth enamel, it can only be removed by a dental professional.
You have a greater chance of developing tartar with crowded teeth, braces, dry mouth, smoking, and aging. For many, these deposits build up faster with age.
Plaque generally hides between teeth and under the gum line. Hence there is no way to avoid it entirely. So it is important to maintain a good oral routine to prevent it from accumulating.
How is Plaque on Teeth Treated?
Regular brushing and flossing and good oral hygiene can remove plaque and prevent tartar buildup. Regardless of how well you brush and floss your teeth at home, it is very difficult to remove plaque from all areas of your teeth.
Plaque buildup for a long time results in the formation of tartar. Tartar is a black substance that attaches to the teeth surface and can cause gum disease. Plaque and tartar are very difficult to remove with a toothbrush, so your dentist has special tools to remove this unwanted substance.
Parque build up on your teeth, if left for long, can result in the development of cavities. Tooth cavities build up slowly without any warning. You can avoid plaque, tartar, and cavities by visiting your dentist regularly.
During your dental examination, your dentist will scrape plaque and tartar from your teeth. With each step, your treatment cost will likely increase. For example, getting plaque and tartar removed from the teeth will cost less than having to get a tooth cavity filled.
Your dentist may also recommend:
- Dental sealants. These are applied to the tooth to keep plaque from forming on the top chewing surfaces of your teeth.
- Dry mouth medications. If you have severe dry mouth symptoms, your dentist may prescribe medication that stimulates saliva. This would help to increase saliva production. If you have a dry mouth, you should pay special attention to oral hygiene.
- Fluoride treatments are very effective in slowing down the growth of plaque-causing bacteria and stopping tooth decay.
- Prescription toothpaste or antibacterial mouthwash can also prove to be very helpful. Some studies have found that mouthwash products containing essential oils that result in less plaque buildup. Hence they are better at reducing plaque buildup than brushing and flossing alone.
How Can You Prevent Plaque on Teeth?
Good tooth and gum care is key to reducing plaque on teeth. You should follow the below steps:
- Brush twice a day: Make it a practice to brush your teeth for two minutes with a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste. Some dentists also recommend electric toothbrushes because they are more effective at removing plaque. You should brush at least twice a day, and preferably after every meal. One of the studies showed that using toothpaste containing baking soda is a good way to get rid of plaque.
- Floss daily: You should floss once a day using dental floss or a water flosser to get rid of food particles, and plaque stuck between your teeth. It is also important to note that flossing before brushing teeth removes more plaque. Because the particles that become loose while flossing are removed when you brush.
- Chew sugarless gum: If you can not brush soon after drinking or eating, chew sugar-free gum. Try to choose a kind that has the American Dental Association or ADA seal. Only chewing gums that are sugar-free are beneficial as they are sweetened using non-cavity-causing sweeteners. You can increase your flow of saliva by chewing sugar-free gums, thereby reducing plaque acid. Therefore strengthening your teeth and reducing tooth decay.
- Choose healthy foods: Try to cut back on sugary, starchy foods and drinks. Instead, choose nutritious, healthy foods and snacks such as plain yogurt, cheese, raw green vegetables or fresh fruits.
- Visit your dentist: Try to get dental checkups done at least twice a year or as recommended by your dentist.
- Use mouthwash: You can rinse with an over-the-counter or prescription antiseptic mouthwash. Most of the mouth rinses have lots of different active ingredients like Chlorhexidine, probiotic, essential oil, and herbal mouth rinses can be very effective.
Plaque on your teeth is a common problem that has an easy fix. Floss and brush daily and see your dentist get your teeth examined. You can also try using antiseptic mouthwashes to kill bacteria that cause plaque. If you allow a film of plaque to stay on your teeth for long, it can harden and develop into plaque.
Eventually, you can get gum disease and might even lose teeth. Therefore, you should have your teeth cleaned at least twice a year. Also, discuss with your dentist about steps you can take to reduce plaque and protect your oral health.
Without regular cleanings, the layer of plaque may harden into tartar, or it might cause tooth cavities, decay, and gum disease. All this would lead to inflammation in your mouth and can result in other health problems. So it is a good idea to stay on top of plaque with good dental habits and regular visits to your dentist.