While you may have heard about the negative effects of plaque on oral health, or perhaps about products that can effectively remove plaque, not everyone knows what plaque itself is. In simple terms, dental plaque is bacteria that forms on the surface of the teeth. Plaque is a sticky film that must be regularly removed by proper brushing and flossing. When plaque is effectively removed, it can cause more harmful and severe oral health problems.
Read on to learn more about dental plaque and how to maintain a clean and healthy mouth every day.
What is Plaque?
Plaque is a clear, sticky film made of bacteria that is continuously developing on the surface of our teeth. When the teeth aren’t brushed regularly enough, the naturally occurring bacteria in the mouth combine with the starchy and sugary foods which in turn produce acids that cause enamel erosion, cavities, gingivitis, and tooth loss. When plaque isn’t removed, it can build up and harden into tartar, which can only be removed by dental professionals.
Plaque typically accumulates near the primary salivary glands: inside the cheeks by the upper molars and the back of the lower front teeth. It can also often be found under the gum line on the roots of the teeth, causing erosion of the roots as well as the bone tissues that support the teeth.
Maintaining an appropriate at-home daily oral health routine is essential. A strong oral health practice typically includes brushing twice daily, flossing once per day, and seeing your dentist regularly for routine checkups and cleanings.
What Causes Plaque?
While plaque is relatively common, there are some factors that can increase the risk of developing plaque. They include:
Chronic Dry Mouth: Individuals who experience chronic dry mouth, whether it occurs naturally or is caused by a medical condition, can produce excess plaque. It is important to stay hydrated and speak with your dentist about how to keep your mouth moist and healthy.
Smoking: Similar to the effects of dry mouth, smoking can result in a dry mouth, as well as increase the amount of harmful bacteria in your mouth. If you are struggling to quit smoking, begin by reducing how often and how much you smoke.
Snacking & Food Choices: Individuals who like to frequently consume sugary drinks, candy, pastries, and other processed foods with large amounts of sugar, can result in the development of excess plaque. Try to choose healthy foods, even when snacking, such as raw fruit and vegetables, and limit the intake of sugary foods. Brushing your teeth immediately after consuming these types of foods can also help.
How is Plaque Treated?
The best way to combat plaque is by practicing a strong oral health routine every single day. Making good choices when it comes to food and drink, as well as quitting smoking if you do smoke, can also help reduce plaque.
If you are concerned about the amount of plaque on your teeth, regular professional cleanings can help. A professional cleaning typically involves a thorough examination of the teeth and mouth, cleaning of the teeth with a special ‘gritty’ toothpaste, scaling, flossing, rinsing, and finishing with a fluoride treatment. This type of cleaning can also work to remove any plaque that has hardened into tartar.
For those who are concerned about the level of plaque in their mouth, consider professional teeth cleaning. A professional teeth cleaning involves a physical examination of your teeth, scaling, gritty toothpaste cleaning, flossing and rinsing, and fluoride treatment. Depending on the health of your teeth, you may also need other treatments to fight against tooth decay.
What Complications Can Be Caused by Plaque?
When plaque is not effectively removed each day, it can cause such problems as:
- Enamel Erosion
- Tooth Decay
- Gum Disease (Gingivitis, Periodontitis)
- Chronic Bad Breath
- Tooth Loss
The Bottom Line
While plaque is commonly found on the teeth of most individuals, it is important to remove it daily through brushing, flossing, and regular visits to your dentist. When left untreated, plaque can harden into tartar and cause significant problems with general oral health. If you want to learn more about our services, how we can help you maintain your best and healthiest smile, or to book your appointment, contact our Guelph dentist’s office today!