Dental plaque. You’ve heard the phrase, but you may not truly understand what it is and how it affects you. The good news? Everyone has it. Try running your tongue over your teeth – if you feel a “fuzzy” sensation, that is probably plaque! The better news? It can be managed and prevented. Here’s everything you need to know…
What is dental plaque?
Simply put, it’s a sticky film of bacteria that forms on teeth when mouth bacteria mix with foods containing sugar or starch. Basically, the bacteria in dental plaque produce acids after you eat or drink something. These acids work to destroy tooth enamel and can also cause cavities and lead to gingivitis or gum disease. Dental plaque also has the ability to develop under the gums on your tooth roots, which can break down the bones that support your teeth. If you disregard this plaque, it can harden into tartar which is more difficult to remove. This is yet another reason why daily brushing and flossing are so critical to your oral health routine.
What causes dental plaque?
Dental plaque forms when the bacteria in your mouth mix with sugary or starchy foods. This may include foods and drinks like: milk, juice, soda, soft drinks, bread, pasta and fruits, to name a few. What happens is that the bacteria in your mouth release acids that are designed to break down carbohydrates found in food and drinks. The best way to remedy dental plaque from occurring is by brushing your teeth soon after consuming such items. In addition to that fuzzy feeling on your teeth, signs and symptoms of dental plaque may include:
- Chronic bad breath (halitosis)
- Tooth sensitivity or pain
- Swollen, tender or red gums that bleed when brushing
Why do I often have dental plaque?
Even though everyone gets dental plaque, here are several reasons why you may be developing more plaque than usual:
- If you consume sugary or starchy foods or beverages on a daily basis;
- If you experience frequent dry mouth (this may be due to medications or existing conditions);
- If you’re a smoker;
- If you have had head or neck radiation.
How can dental plaque be managed and treated?
Dental plaque is scraped from your teeth, along with tartar buildup, during your dental cleanings and exams. Regular brushing and flossing removes dental plaque and prevents tartar buildup. If you need to continue the fight against plaque outside of your dental appointments, your dentist may recommend:
- Dental sealants – these keep plaque from forming on the chewing surfaces of your teeth;
- Dry mouth medications – these are designed to increase saliva production;
- Fluoride treatments – these aid in slowing the growth of plaque-causing bacteria and focus on stopping tooth decay;
- Prescription toothpastes or antibacterial mouthwash options.
How can I prevent dental plaque?
Brushing and flossing regularly, of course! But in addition to maintaining a good oral hygiene routine, you can also prevent dental plaque by being mindful of what you’re consuming. Here are some tips:
- Floss daily with water floss or a dental flosser;
- Brush twice daily for at least two-minutes per brushing;
- Chew sugarless gum if you cannot brush your teeth soon after eating;
- Choose healthy and nutritious foods instead of sugary and starchy options;
- Use mouthwash to help remove loose and excess particles;
- Visit your dentist regularly – get those biannual cleanings scheduled!
As always, if you have any questions about the state of your oral health or any dental plaque concerns, please contact us – we’re here and happy to help!