Dental plaque is a sticky film that forms on your teeth every day and is usually colourless or has a pale yellow hue. It has that slippery feeling when you move your tongue against your teeth. When saliva, food, and fluids combine, plaque – which contains bacteria – forms between your teeth and the gum line. Scientists call plaque a “biofilm” because it’s actually a community of living microbes surrounded by a gluey polymer layer. The sticky coating helps the microbes attach to surfaces in your mouth so they can grow into thriving microcolonies.
Plaque vs Tartar
When there’s a constant build-up of plaque which isn’t regularly removed, it can accumulate minerals from your saliva and harden into an off-white or yellow substance called tartar which builds up along your gum line on the fronts and backs of your teeth. Although flossing may dislodge some tartar build-up, you’ll probably need to visit a dentist to rid yourself of all of it.
What causes plaque?
Bacteria and other organisms make their way into your mouth when you eat, drink, and breathe forming a thriving ecosystem. Most of the time, a delicate balance is maintained in your oral ecosystem, but problems can arise when certain strains of bacteria become overabundant.
The bacteria in the mouth feed on sugars from the carbs and sugary foods when you eat, producing acids in the process. Those acids can lead to cavities, gingivitis, and other forms of tooth decay. This decay from plaque can happen under the gums where you can’t see it, eating away at the support for your teeth.
HOW TO PREVENT PLAQUE
Good oral hygiene
It can’t be stressed enough, the most important thing you can do is clean your teeth every day. This will keep the bacteria in plaque from harming your teeth and gums. Brush your teeth twice a day, for up to two minutes, and especially after eating sugary foods.
It’s important to floss your teeth daily since plaque can form in the tight spaces between teeth. And a vital part of good oral health is visiting your dentist regularly for cleanings and check-ups.
Let’s get rinsing
To get at the bacteria in harder-to-reach areas such as between your teeth, consider using a mouth wash product when you rinse and floss. Researchers have concluded that when mouthwashes are used along with brushing teeth and flossing between them, there’s a significant reduction in plaque growth and gingivitis.
Mouthwashes have lots of different active ingredients such as Chlorhexidine (CHX), probiotic, herbal, and essential oil mouth rinses have all been studied. Chlorhexidine is available by prescription only and while it’s highly effective for reducing plaque build-up, it can stain teeth and change the way food tastes to you.
For a mouth wash that won’t cause staining or other side effects, you might consider a probiotic or herbal rinse. Both types significantly improve plaque levels without the staining that can occur with a Chlorhexidine wash.
Some studies have also found that rinse products containing essential oils result in less plaque build-up than brushing and flossing alone. Listerine Cool Mint, for example, contains small amounts of menthol, thyme, wintergreen, and eucalyptus oils, reduces both plaque and gingivitis.
Without regular cleanings, plaque may harden into tartar, or it may cause cavities, tooth decay, and gum disease. Inflammation in your mouth can lead to other health problems, so it’s a good idea to stay on top of plaque with good dental habits and regular trips to the dentist.
The good news for you is that with the measures outlined above, coupled with biannual trips to your dentist, you should be able to keep the growth of plaque to a minimum and maintain the health of your mouth. Visit Mathee Dental Studio to set up an appointment today.