What is dental plaque, and where does it come from? How can it be prevented and treated? Our Edmonton dentists answer these questions and more in today's post.
What is dental plaque?
A sticky, colourless film of bacteria called dental plaque is constantly forming on our teeth. If you don't brush your teeth soon enough or frequently enough after eating or drinking, bacteria in the mouth mix with sugary or starchy foods to produce acids that can destroy tooth enamel and cause cavities, gingivitis (early-stage gum disease) and tooth loss.
Tartar commonly builds where the major salivary glands are located in our mouths: inside the cheeks near our upper molars and near the lower front teeth.
Plaque can also grow under the gums on the roots of our teeth and erode the bones that support teeth. Left untreated, plaque hardens into tartar, which can only be removed by a dentist, who uses specific tools such as a scaler to scrape plaque and tartar from the teeth during a dental cleaning.
It's critical to maintain a proper at-home oral hygiene routine, including daily brushing and twice-daily flossing, to remove plaque from our teeth and gums before it causes problems.
What are signs that I have plaque on my teeth?
If your teeth have ever felt fuzzy when you run your tongue over them, you know what it' like to have plaque in your mouth. Other signs include:
- Swollen, red or tender gums that bleed after brushing (gum disease)
- Chronic bad breath (halitosis)
How can plaque affect oral health?
If you don't brush or floss daily, plaque can get into the crevices between teeth and collect on our gums, then harden into tartar. Plaque and tartar buildup can lead to:
- Tooth infection
- Severe infection in the gums
- Gingivitis and periodontal (gum) disease
- Tooth decay and loss
If untreated gingivitis progresses to more serious periodontitis, this can lead to tooth and bone loss. Inflammatory gum disease can eventually negatively impact your overall systemic health, leading to diseases such as diabetes.
Is dental plaque permanent?
Everyone has dental plaque to some degree, since it's always developing in our mouths.
However, if we maintain a proper oral hygiene routine and visit our dentist regularly for our scheduled dental cleanings, plaque doesn't have to become permanent - or cause dangerous diseases that can negatively affect our oral and overall health.
So, the answer to the question, "Can plaque be removed?" is, of course - with the right oral hygiene routine in place and diligent attention to your oral health.
How can plaque be prevented?
Reducing the risk of and presence of plaque buildup comes down to good tooth and gum care. We recommend all of our patients:
- Brush twice daily (preferably after every meal) for two minutes each time with a soft-bristled toothbrush (manual or electric) and fluoride toothpaste.
- Floss daily with dental floss or a water flosser to eliminate food and plaque lodged between teeth.
- Eat health foods and nutritious snacks such as cheese, raw fruit or vegetables and plain yogurt. Limit starchy, sugary foods and drinks that encourage plaque buildup.
- Use an over-the-counter or prescription mouthwash to keep your breath fresh.
- Visit your dentist regularly - at least twice a year - for dental checkups and cleanings.
How do you get plaque off your teeth?
There are a variety of methods for preventing, managing and treating plaque and tartar buildup. Aside from regular brushing and flossing and regular dental cleanings, your Edmonton dentist may also recommend:
- Prescription toothpaste or antibacterial mouthwash
- Dental sealants to keep plaque from forming on the tops of chewing surfaces of teeth
- Fluoride treatments to stop tooth decay and slow growth of bacteria that causes plaque
- Dry mouth medications to increase saliva production
Another common question many patients ask is, "What dissolves dental plaque?". Many wonder if there are at-home remedies to do the job. Along with our recommendations above, you can try mixing white vinegar in a glass of warm saltwater.
Dental Plaque Removal at Azarko Dental Group
During your dental exam, your dentist will closely check your teeth and gums for plaque, tartar and signs of other oral health issues, either before or after your dental hygienist performs a professional deep cleaning.
To start, the hygienist will use a scaler to loosen plaque and tartar buildup between the teeth and along your gum line. Lastly, they will floss and polish your teeth to leave you with a clean, fresh smile.
Your cleaning may also include a fluoride treatment to help rebuild minerals in tooth enamel and prevent or reverse tooth decay.