We often hear about the plaque on our teeth causing dental problems. However, many people aren’t even sure what plaque is, how it grows on our teeth, or why it’s so important to get rid of them. Learning about the dangers of plaque and how to manage your risk for plaque buildup is essential to maintaining proper dental hygiene and preventing major problems from developing down the road.
Plaque is a sticky, thin substance that accumulates on teeth. It can form from eating too many sticky, sugary foods, which combine with the bacteria in your mouth. It can feel filmy or fuzzy, and can cause bad breath or an unpleasant taste in the mouth. Plaque is naturally occuring, and everyone has a certain amount of plaque. However, minimizing the amount of plaque in your mouth is critical for maintaining dental health.
When left unchecked, plaque can be disastrous for your teeth. The bacteria in plaque will combine with the sugars in the food you eat to release acids, which in turn will start to wear through the enamel of your teeth. While it mostly occurs on the tooth surface, plaque can get under the gums onto the roots of your teeth and start to break down the bones and structures that support your dental health. Plaque will slowly turn into tartar, a harder and much more difficult to remove substance. Plaque and tartar can both lead to tooth cavities, gingivitis, gum infections, periodontal diseases, tooth decay, and tooth infections. Unchecked infections or diseases of the mouth can even spread and start causing major health problems all over the body.
Fortunately, plaque growth is easy to prevent. You can prevent plaque and tartar buildup in your mouth by brushing twice daily, flossing one a day, using mouthwash, and making healthier food choices with less sugar. Specifically, avoiding foods that are sticky and sweet will go far for preventing plaque buildup. When you do treat yourself to something especially sugary, brush your teeth immediately after to prevent the sugar from sticking to your teeth and allowing plaque to grow. You can also try other ways to reduce the sugar in your mouth, like switching to sugar-free chewing gum, to prevent plaque from accumulating.
It’s also critical to visit a dentist regularly every six months as tartar cannot be cleaned away with at-home dental products and must be removed by a dental health professional. Your dentist may also suggest other remedies for you depending on your dental needs, like dental sealants, fluoride treatments, or antibacterial mouthwash.