Table of contents
- What is plaque?
- What causes plaque?
- Consequences of plaque
- How do I know if I’ve got plaque?
- How do I get rid of plaque?
We’re all aware of plaque. We know that it’s something that’s bad for our teeth and that it’s something that should be avoided. But to best tackle plaque, it’s best to completely and genuinely understand what it is, what causes it and various other pieces of information that can really help you to maintain your overall dental health and hygiene. So, let’s get to it!
What is plaque?
Let’s start by identifying exactly what plaque is. Put simply, plaque is a sticky film of bacteria that constantly forms on your teeth. Every time you eat or drink, bacteria in the plaque on your teeth produces acids. These acids are pretty harmful and can start to damage and destroy your tooth enamel. This can then result in cavities and gum disease (otherwise referred to as “gingivitis”).
It’s also worth knowing that plaque isn’t just limited to your teeth, It can also develop under your gums, where it can begin to damage the roots of your teeth or where it can begin to break down the bones that support your teeth.
When left untreated, plaque can begin to harden. Once it’s hardened, it’s referred to as tartare – a substance that is extremely tough to remove and cannot be removed with brushing and flossing alone. Instead, a professional dentist will have to remove it on your behalf.
What causes plaque?
So, we know what plaque is. But what actually causes it? Well, plaque is created when the bacteria in your mouth are exposed to sugary or starchy foods. These kinds of foods can include fruit juices, milk, sugary soft drinks, bread, pasta, fruit and more. The bacteria in your mouth will release acids that break down carbohydrates in these food and drinks. The combination of these bacteria, acids and carbohydrates can mix into a sticky, colorless film called plaque, which coats your teeth. Some people experience a buildup of plaque more than others. The following factors can increase your chances of developing plaque:
- Consuming a lot of sugary or starchy foods or drinks
- Having dry mouth (potentially due to medications like antidepressants or conditions like Sjögren’s syndrome)
- Having a history of head or neck radiation
Consequences of plaque
As we’ve briefly mentioned above, plaque can come hand in hand with all sorts of health problems. If you fail to brush and floss daily, you can experience a buildup of plaque and tartare, which can then result in:
- Gum disease (also known as “periodontal disease”)
- Severe gum infections (also known as “periodontitis”)
- Tooth decay
- Tooth infections (such as abscesses)
- Tooth loss
How Do I Know If I’ve Got Plaque?
Generally, you can feel when you have plaque on your teeth. They may feel fuzzy when you run your tongue over them. However, you can always have a professional check from a dentist to confirm whether you have a big build up of plaque or tartare. If you have a lot of plaque or tartare, your dentist may want to run a dental X ray to check for cavities too.
How Do I Get Rid of Plaque?
Managing plaque is actually pretty simple. All you need to do is maintain good dental and oral hygiene, which really isn’t too complicated at all. Make sure to brush your teeth, twice a day, using a good quality, fluoride toothpaste, and you should remove plaque and prevent a build up of tartare. You should also make sure to floss between your teeth using dental floss and interdental cleaners to ensure that there isn’t any plaque existing between your teeth. Visit your dentist at least once a year – but preferably once every six months – for a general dental checkup. They’ll be able to identify any build up of plaque and can also take action if tartare has developed.
To remove tartar, your dentist will generally carry out a scale and polish. This will eliminate tartare and give you a fresh opportunity to remove plaque on a daily basis through simple brushing and flossing.
As you can see, plaque is a pretty common and potentially big problem for the majority of us. But at the same time, it’s so easily tackled! Just make sure to dedicate yourself to a regular dental hygiene routine and you should be able to avoid it completely! Why risk such serious consequences when you can really get rid of plaque with routine brushing and flossing?