Run your tongue over your teeth. Did you just eat or haven’t brushed in a while? That film that you feel on your teeth is called plaque. This is the buildup you’re trying to remove every time you brush and floss. But why is it harmful? And why is it so important remove? Plaque is something that forms naturally, but it’s one of your body’s worst enemies. Plaque can lead to yellow teeth and bad breath, and is also associated with heart diseases and dementia, so it’s important to understand what it is and how to deal with it.
What is plaque?
Plaque is a sticky, colorless film of bacteria and sugars that constantly forms on our teeth. It is the main cause of cavities and gum disease, and can harden into tartar if not removed daily.
How do I know if I have plaque?
Everyone develops plaque, because bacteria are constantly forming in our mouths. Plaque is colorless and difficult to see. Heavy plaque deposits can be easier to see and may look like a thick white deposit or food stuck to the teeth. These bacteria use ingredients found in our diet and saliva to grow.
What does plaque do to my mouth?
Plaque causes cavities when the acids from plaque attack teeth after eating. When you eat, the bacteria in plaque use the sugars in your food to produce acids that eat away at the tooth enamel. Repeated attacks cause the enamel to break down, eventually resulting in a cavity in the tooth surface.
Plaque that is not removed daily by brushing and flossing between teeth can eventually harden into tartar. Brushing and flossing become more difficult as tartar collects at the gum line. As the tartar, plaque and bacteria continue to increase, the gum tissue can become red, swollen and possibly bleed when you brush your teeth. This is called gingivitis, an early stage of gum disease.
Gingivitis is reversible with good oral hygiene and professional treatment; however, if left untreated, gingivitis can advance into periodontitis. Periodontitis, a more severe form of gum disease, occurs when bacterial infection causes your gums and the bone supporting the teeth to break down. Your gums may begin to recede, pulling back from the teeth. In the most severe cases, the bone supporting the teeth is destroyed and can lead to tooth loss.
How Can I Prevent Plaque Buildup?
Since plaque is constantly growing in your mouth, the best way to remove it and to prevent build-up is with proper care. Make sure to:
- Brush your teeth twice a day, using a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste to remove plaque from tooth surfaces and protect your teeth from decay.
- Clean between teeth daily (preferably before bedtime) with floss or an interdental cleaner to remove plaque from the places where your toothbrush can’t reach. Flossing is essential to preventing gum disease.
- Since plaque is a sticky substance, you must brush and floss to help remove it. Mouth rinses alone will not provide enough plaque removal to keep your teeth and gums healthy.
- Eat a balanced diet and limit between-meal snacks, which can provide more sugar for the bacteria in plaque to convert into decay-causing acids.
- Visit your dentist at least once a year for professional cleanings and oral exams.
Do you have any questions about plaque? Call Westermeier Martin Dental care to schedule an appointment with your dentist 716-508-4547.