You have just brushed and flossed your teeth, does that mean you have taken care of plaque for good and that it will not appear again? Wrong! Plaque invariably forms no matter how meticulously you brush and floss. That’s the reason you need to be persistent in removing it daily, ideally twice a day, by brushing and flossing.
What it dental plaque?
Plaque is a biofilm, which is soft and sticky, and constantly forms on teeth. Within minutes after brushing your teeth squeaky clean plaque starts to accumulate on them. It is usually colorless to whitish the slimy layer and gathers on teeth and gums, chiefly at the gum margins on teeth. Made of billions of bacteria, it is extremely harmful and the cause behind cavities and gum diseases.
Saliva contains glycoproteins; which form a layer called the acquired pellicle on the surface immediately after a tooth is cleaned. This soft layer allows bacteria to attach to it and becomes a vicious cycle of more aggregation of bacteria. Over times, if left as it is, it begins to thicken and becomes visible.
Plaque accumulates at a very high rate making your teeth appear dull and matted, this is when it becomes visible to your eyes. It sounds disgusting, but that’s a fact which all of us, rather our mouths, have to go through every minute of the hour. Not just your teeth, but plaque also forms on the soft tissues of your mouth like gums, tongue, inner lining of the mouth as well as dental fillings, crowns, dentures etc. Nothing in the mouth is safe from plaque.
What does plaque look like?
Initially it is a colorless, soft film, invisible to the eyes. But over time it becomes pale yellow in color. Depending on the presence of chromogenic bacteria, it can become yellow, orange and even black.
What happens to plaque if it not removed?
If plaque is left on its own it becomes hard and turns to what is called tarter or calculus. Our saliva contains minerals, which get deposited in the plaque to harden it. This process starts at the gum line and can deposit on tooth surface underneath the gum line in what is called the sulcus to become sub-gingival calculus. Tartar is rough in texture and attracts more plaque.
Why is plaque harmful for my mouth?
Now you know that plaque is not just filthy and gross to look at but it is also a haven for bacteria. These bacteria thrive on the sugar in your food. Each time you eat something that contains sugar or carbohydrates, these bacteria go to work and produce acid from it, which eats into the hard outer covering of your tooth called enamel, to form cavities. The more frequently you consume sugar, the more recurrent are the attacks on your teeth. With repetitive attacks by acids, your enamel starts to break down, exposing the softer dentin underneath. This is when you start to feel the pain, ouch!
Also, as the plaque progresses it forms tartar, which cannot be removed by you at home with brushing and flossing. It starts to accumulate more bacteria. The bacteria close to the gums produce toxins that cause inflammation of the gums. Your gums become swollen, red and can bleed easily. This inflammation of the gums is called gingivitis. This is the first stage of gum disease and can be reversed. If left untreated, it progresses to a more aggressive and serious form of gum disease involving the underlying bone called Periodontitis. In periodontitis, the underlying bone and supporting structures of the tooth start to get affected and collapse. Your gums start to pull away from its attachment on the tooth and form what is called pockets, which harbor bacteria. Also, gums tend to pull back and recede exposing the root of the tooth.
The end result is you can end up losing your teeth. Besides the pain of cavities and gum disease, plaque and tartar also contribute to bad breath and make your teeth appear unattractive and unsightly.
With meticulous brushing and flossing, you can get rid of plaque. But tartar adheres to teeth tightly and can only be removed by a professional dental cleaning. Hence plaque removal is very important to maintain your oral health.
How can you remove plaque?
As we learnt earlier plaque keeps on forming continuously. So it’s best to stick to good preventative habits:
1. Maintain good oral hygiene:
Brush your teeth twice a day – once in the morning and once before going to bed, meticulously using a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoridated toothpaste. Use dental floss to clean between teeth at least once a day. Invest a few minutes each day for the health of your mouth. Replace your brush every three months. If you are having difficulty in using a manual toothbrush, switch to an electric toothbrush.
Learn the correct technique of brushing:
This is extremely important as no matter which type of brush you use if you don’t use the proper method plaque will remain behind even after brushing. So hold your brush at a 45-degree angle to the gum line and gently move back and forth with 2-3 teeth at a time. This will make sure plaque hidden in the gingival sulcus is removed. The total brushing period should be 2 minutes approximately. Take help from your dentist to learn the proper technique. There are different types of brushes in the market, with angulated heads and different types of handles. You can try them to see which one fits your needs. If a particular area of your gum bleeds after brushing and flossing gently, it means you probably have developed gingivitis and it is wise to get it checked by your dentist.
You can also brush your teeth with an antibacterial mouth. This helps the mouthwash to reach hidden nooks and gingival sulcus to kill bacteria.
If you get a chance, try to brush about thirty minutes after every meal. Sooner than that you might erode the enamel.
2. Eat a balanced diet:
A diet packed with nutrients as well as fiber is a good way to keep your teeth and gums healthy. Avoid frequent snacking between meals, especially on those laden with sugar and refined carbohydrates. This way you are ensuring that the bacteria don’t get food to thrive.
3. Visit your dentist for routine checkup and cleaning
Although good oral hygiene is the best way to get rid of plaque, it might become very difficult to remove it from all surfaces, especially those far-reaching areas. So it’s wise to get a dental checkup and cleaning done regularly.
During your check-up, you can ask your dentist to use what is called a disclosing agent which will color the plaque and show you exactly where you might be lacking in your brushing skills.
Your dentist will use special instruments called scalars to remove plaque as well as that tough tartar effectively. This is followed up with polishing to remove stains and smoothen any rough areas to give you that ultra-clean feeling.
Don’t take your oral health for granted! It is better to prevent problems than wait for problems to get bigger; which can need treatment that is tedious and adds burden to your pocket. Make an appointment today with a dental specialist at Signature Smiles for preventive checkups as well as comprehensive treatments like implants, crowns, smile makeover, instant teeth whitening.