Proper oral hygiene isn't just for freshening your breath after lunch. You may have heard about plaque-fighting oral care products or heard about the importance of flossing, but what exactly is plaque? Learn what plaque is and how to remove and prevent it from damaging your teeth with this guide.
Plaque: What Is It and How do I Get Rid of It?
What is Plaque?
The Indian Dental Association explains that dental plaque is a sticky film that constantly forms on the teeth. Each time you have sugary food and drink, the bacteria in plaque produce acid that attacks teeth. Tooth decay is the destruction of tooth tissue caused by acids made by bacteria in dental plaque. If you eat or drink sugary foods frequently throughout the day, you have more "acid attacks" which can lead to tooth decay. This can eventually lead to cavities (holes) in the teeth and infection. Further, plaque will eventually harden into tartar and make your gums swollen and bleed easily, an early sign of gum disease. The good news is that plaque removal is simple with good oral hygiene and your dental hygienist's help.
How to Remove Plaque at Home
Getting rid of that sticky biofilm is easy. Thoroughly cleaning all surfaces of your teeth, between your teeth and under the gumline, can help remove the food debris that feeds bacteria. When plaque has hardened into tartar, also known as calculus, you must visit your dental hygienist to remove it, as normal brush and flossing will not.
Brushing Your Teeth
You should brush your teeth at least twice a day or after every meal. Brush for at least two minutes to prevent bacteria build-up and decay. It doesn't take a lot of pressure or vigorous brushing to remove plaque. Using a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste to brush each tooth will help remove build-up and food debris.
Remember that bacteria love carbohydrates found in sweets, soda, or snacks. So, reducing the amount of this food and drinks, along with brushing and cleaning between your teeth, is crucial to keeping plaque under control.
Floss, Flossers and Other Interdental Cleaners
Cleaning between your teeth and under the gumline is crucial for biofilm and plaque removal and can help prevent gingivitis and tooth decay. There are several kinds of products that will clean in those hard-to-reach places.
- Traditional dental floss can curve around your teeth to clean every side of each tooth.
- Water flossers use a water jet to clean between the teeth.
- Dental picks can reach between the teeth if you have braces or another barrier to flossing with dental floss.
Ask your dental hygienist for recommendations on flossing products, or you can look for the IDA Seal of Acceptance for their approved products.
How Can I Prevent Plaque build-up?
The Indian Dental Association notes that plaque is quicker to build up and can become more difficult to remove. Brushing and flossing daily, especially before bedtime and in the morning, are essential for removing the plaque that builds up while you sleep. Now that you've learned about how bacteria builds up on your teeth, remember to do the following:
- Brush all surfaces of your teeth thoroughly at least twice a day
- Clean between your teeth and under your gumline with floss, water flossers, or another tool daily
- Limit sugary or starchy foods and drinks, especially snacks
- Schedule regular visits with your dental hygienist and dentist
If plaque builds up for too long, it can harden into tartar, which cannot be removed at home. Fortunately, your dentist and dental hygienist can treat plaque or tartar build-up issues and give you special instructions for your exact situation. Happy brushing. You've got this!
This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.