Plaque – What It Is and How to Prevent It
At Iqaluit Dental Clinic, we believe it is crucial to prevent the build-up of dental plaque or remove it before it gets too late. Otherwise, it can lead to more serious dental complications such as the formation of tartar, leave to gum diseases (gingivitis), cavities, and even lead to tooth loss.
Unfortunately, even with regular brushing habits, almost everybody gets plaque, especially if they consume a lot of sugary or starchy food and drinks. Thus, it is recommended you practice good oral hygiene to prevent plaque build-up and opt for periodic dental checkups to remove plaque from your teeth. Now, let’s discuss how plaque is formed, how to prevent it, and the treatment options.
Plaque vs tartar and how it is formed?
If you have ever closely examined your teeth in the mirror, you might have noticed a thin, sticky yellow layer on your teeth. That coating is known as plaque. Plaque is a biofilm, which essentially means it is a living community of microbes (bacteria) that attach to the surface of your teeth to create thriving colonies.
There are over 300 different varieties of bacteria that constantly form plaque on teeth. Whenever you consume food or beverages that are rich in sugar and carbohydrates, these harmful bacteria feast on the food particles left behind to produce acids that can lead to other oral problems such as gingivitis, cavities, bad breath, and more.
When you don’t follow the appropriate brushing guidelines or don’t maintain good oral hygiene, it can make the removal of plaque around your teeth difficult. Over time, the plaque can accumulate minerals from your saliva and harden into tartar, which is usually yellow or white in colour.
Unlike plaque, removing tartar is not possible with regular brushing and it can cause severe gum infection, tooth infection, periodontal disease, cavities, tooth decay, and more. The only way to remove tartar properly is to visit an experienced dental professional.
How to prevent plaque?
Now that you have an idea of what plaque is and why it is important to remove plaque, let’s look at the ways you can prevent the build-up of plaque and tartar:
1. Practice good oral hygiene – The best way to prevent the build-up of plaque is to practice good oral hygiene, and tooth and gum care. According to the American Dental Association, you should brush your teeth twice a day and after eating for at least two minutes. Ensure you choose a toothbrush with soft bristles so that you don’t accidentally hurt your gums and select a toothpaste with fluoride in it.
It is also important to use dental floss or water flosser to floss once a day. Flossing helps to remove plaque and food particles stuck between the teeth where the toothbrush cannot reach effectively.
2. Be mindful of your diet – Another great way to limit plaque build-up is to avoid consuming sugary food and drinks, starchy snacks, candies, and more that facilitate the production of plaque.
Instead, it is healthier to incorporate foods in your diet that offer you balanced nutrition so that your body can fight harmful bacteria and stay healthy. Cheese, plain yoghurt, and healthy vegetables and fruits are all healthy options to consume. You can also consume cranberries which contain polyphenols that can combat harmful mouth bacteria such as streptococcus sobrinus and streptococcus mutans that are responsible for causing cavities.
3. Use an antiseptic mouthwash – After flossing and brushing your teeth, rinsing your teeth with an antiseptic mouthwash is a great idea since it also helps to reduce bad bacteria in your mouth responsible for producing plaque.
Before you choose an antiseptic mouthwash, ensure you read the active ingredients carefully. For instance, mouthwashes that contain Chlorhexidine (CHX) are effective at reducing plaque build-up and improving gum health but can stain your teeth and change the way food tastes to you.
Herbal and prebiotic mouthwashes are great options since they remove plaque without staining your teeth. You may also choose mouthwashes that contain essential oils. If you suffer from other oral problems such as consistent bad breath, you can consult your dentist to get a therapeutic mouthwash which is more powerful than cosmetic mouthwashes.
4. Baking soda – According to studies, brushing your teeth with toothpaste that contains baking soda can help to remove and prevent the build-up of plaque better compared to normal toothpaste.
This is because baking soda is a natural cleanser and abrasive. However, it is important to exercise caution when using such toothpaste to ensure you don’t damage your teeth in another way.
5. Oil pulling – Oil pulling is a popular home remedy that helps to reduce oral problems including plaque build-up. Generally, it is recommended you swish about one tablespoon of coconut oil or olive oil around your mouth for 20 to 30 minutes to perform oil pulling. Although as a beginner, you can start at 5 minutes and slowly increase the duration.
For best results, you should perform oil pulling at least a few times a week and no more than thrice a day.
6. Schedule regular dentist appointments – Even when you follow good oral hygiene and eat healthy foods, it can still lead to the formation of plaque and tartar on your teeth. That is why it is recommended you visit your dentist at least twice a year. Your dentist can examine your teeth properly and remove any plaque or tartar before it leads to more complications.
Your dentist may also recommend dental sealants since they can protect the top chewing surface of the teeth. If you suffer from dry mouth, they can prescribe medications that improve the production of saliva. Fluoride treatments can also help to slow the growth of bad bacteria in your mouth and prevent tooth decay. Plus, they can also suggest to you how to change your diet or which dental habits to adopt to reduce the build-up of plaque.
At Iqaluit Dental Clinic, we recommend you book an appointment with your dentist if you suspect a severe build-up of plaque in your mouth, possible tartar. It is especially important to get rid of plaque if you notice pain or difficulty chewing, chronic bad breath, tooth sensitivity, facial swelling, bleeding gums, loose teeth, and more.