You may have heard it’s important to have good oral health and to keep plaque off your teeth, but what exactly is plaque? Plaque is a soft and sticky substance that builds up on your teeth containing countless bacteria. The bacteria in plaque serves to break down your tooth’s enamel and contributes to the onset of tooth decay. Today, we take a closer look at how plaque forms and how you can prevent it from building up.
How Does Plaque Form?
Plaque is a result of the bacteria that live in our mouth. These bacteria use ingredients in our saliva and the foods we eat to grow, and the result it the formation of plaque. When we eat, the bacteria in plaque uses the sugars in the food to grow, and this process produces acids that can eat away at your tooth’s enamel. Repeated acid attacks can cause the enamel to break down to the point where a cavity forms.
Plaque that is not regularly removed can eventually harden and turn into what’s known as tartar. Brushing, flossing and removing tartar becomes harder as tartar collects in the gum line, so try to remove plaque before it hardens. Left untreated, tartar can irritate your gums and cause them to become red, swollen or bleed when brushing. When this happens, you’re suffering from gingivitis, the first stage of periodontal disease. Periodontal disease involves a bacterial infection in your mouth that can lead to receding gumlines and tooth loss, so stop this problem at the first stage by helping remove plaque from your teeth.
Getting Rid of Plaque
So if you want to prevent plaque buildup or the problems it can cause down the road, you have to take some proactive steps. Here are some ways you can work to prevent plaque buildup:
- Brush your teeth at least twice a day. Since plaque is always forming, regularly brushing in the morning and evening can help stop it from developing throughout the day.
- Floss between your teeth. Your toothbrush bristles can’t always reach between your teeth, so be sure to floss to remove plaque from hard to reach places.
- Be smart about mouthwashes. Mouthwashes are great in addition to a comprehensive oral health plan, but because plaque is a sticky substance, mouthwash alone isn’t going to be able to remove it. Don’t use mouthwash in place of brushing or flossing, use it in addition for best results.
- Eat a healthy diet and limit snacking between meals. Food is obviously essential, but it can also provide more bacteria for plaque to turn into acids.
- Get regular dental cleanings. A professional dental cleaning can remove plaque and any built-up tartar to help prevent the onset of gingivitis.
Do your part to help keep potentially damaging plaque off your teeth’s surfaces by following the above tips, and if you need to make an appointment for your next dental cleaning, click here or call Dr. Brooks’ office today at (952) 888-3200.