What is Plaque?
Plaque is a sticky, colorless film of bacteria and sugars that constantly forms on our teeth. It is the main cause of cavities and gum disease, and can harden into tartar if not removed daily.
How Do I Know if I Have Plaque?
Everyone develops plaque because bacteria are constantly forming in our mouths. These bacteria use ingredients found in our diet and saliva to grow. Plaque causes cavities when the acids from plaque attack teeth after eating. With repeated acid attacks, the tooth enamel can break down and a cavity may form. Plaque that is not removed can also irritate the gums around your teeth, leading to gingivitis (red, swollen, bleeding gums), periodontal disease and tooth loss.
What Causes Plaque and Why Is It Harmful?
Plaque develops when foods containing carbohydrates (sugars and starches), such as milk, soft drinks, raisins, cakes, or candy are frequently left on the teeth. Bacteria that live in the mouth thrive on these foods, producing acids as a result. Over a period of time, these acids destroy tooth enamel, resulting in tooth decay. Plaque can also develop on the tooth roots under the gum and cause breakdown of the bone supporting the tooth.
How Can I Prevent Plaque Buildup?
It’s easy to prevent plaque buildup with proper care. Make sure to:
Brush thoroughly at least twice a day to remove plaque from all surfaces of your teeth
Floss daily to remove plaque from between your teeth and under your gumline, where your toothbrush may not reach
Limit sugary or starchy foods, especially sticky snacks.
During scaling, plaque and tartar are removed from the crown and root of the tooth.
Top 3 Ways to Prevent PLAQUE & TARTAR
Brush thoroughly at least twice a day for two minutes.
Schedule at least two regular dental visits for professional cleanings and dental examinations each year.
How Can Plaque Formation Be Prevented?
To prevent plaque buildup, brush your teeth at least twice a day with a soft, rounded-tip bristled toothbrush. Pay particular attention to the space where the gums and teeth meet. Use a fluoride-containing toothpaste.
Floss between teeth at least once a day to remove food particles and bacteria.
Use an antibacterial mouth rinse to reduce bacteria that cause plaque and gum disease.
See your dentist or oral hygienist every 6 months for a check-up and teeth cleaning.
Ask your dentist if a dental sealant is appropriate for you. Dental sealants are a thin, plastic coating that are painted on the chewing surfaces of teeth to protect them from cavities and decay.
Eat a balanced diet and limit the number of between-meal snacks. If you need a snack, choose nutritious foods such as plain yogurt, cheese, fruit, or raw vegetables. Vegetables, such as celery, help remove food and help saliva neutralize plaque-causing acids.
Stop plaque in its tracks
Plaque is a sticky bacteria that sticks to your teeth. When plaque is not removed through brushing and flossing, it turns into tartar. Try one of our toothpastes which reduces plaque and tartar build up.
Many people dread teeth cleanings. Between the prodding, strange noises, and occasional jaw discomfort, it’s easy to understand their apprehension. But for most, a teeth cleaning is simple and painless.
Knowing exactly what is going on during the process can help ease your stress and allow you to better enjoy the minty-fresh results.
1. A physical exam
Most teeth cleanings are performed by a dental hygienist. Before the actual cleaning process begins, they start with a physical exam of your entire mouth.
The dental hygienist uses a small mirror to check around your teeth and gums for any signs of gingivitis (inflamed gums) or other potential concerns.
If they detect major problems, the dental hygienist might call the dentist to make sure it’s fine to proceed.
2. Removing plaque and tartar
With the small mirror to guide them, the dental hygienist uses a scaler to get rid of plaque and tartar around your gum line, as well as in between your teeth. You’ll hear scraping, but this is normal. The more tartar there is in your mouth, the more time they’ll need to scrape a particular spot.
Brushing and flossing stops plaque from building up and hardening into tartar. Once you have tartar, you can only have it removed at your dentist’s office. So if this is your least favorite part of the teeth cleaning process, the lesson is to brush and floss more often.
3. Gritty toothpaste cleaning
After your teeth are completely tartar-free, the hygienist brushes them with a high-powered electric brush.which makes a grinding noise. While it sounds scary, it’s a great way to get a deep clean and remove any tartar left behind from the scaler.
Professional cleanings use toothpaste that smells and tastes like regular toothpaste, though you can often choose between flavors. However, it has a gritty consistency that gently scrubs your teeth. If done by a professional, this polishing of the teeth is deemed safe to do twice a year. But don’t be as harsh with your teeth at home, because you’ll wear down the enamel.
4. Expert flossing
Whether you floss regularly at home or not, nothing beats an expert flossing session. Your dental hygienist can get deep between your teeth and locate any potential trouble spots where you might bleed at the gums.
This might seem pointless if you floss at home, but having a professional floss your teeth also removes any leftover plaque or toothpaste from earlier in the cleaning process.
Next, you rinse out your mouth to get rid of any debris. Your dental hygienist will usually give you a rinse that contains liquid fluoride.
6. Applying fluoride treatment
The last step of the cleaning process is a fluoride treatment. This treatment is used as a protectant for your teeth to help fight against cavities for several months.
Your dental hygienist may ask you what flavor you like best. They’ll then place the foamy gel (or sometimes a sticky paste) into a mouthpiece that fits over your teeth. It’s usually left on your teeth for one minute. Besides the foamy gel, fluoride varnish is also painted onto the teeth with a small brush. Fluoride varnish will harden when in contact with saliva, so you can eat and drink immediately after.
Other potential steps
Professional teeth cleanings are scheduled twice a year, while X-rays are normally done once a year. Still, depending on what your dentist or dental hygienist observes in your mouth, they might do other exams during your visit. For children, a dentist may recommend molar sealants to help prevent cavities in hard-to-brush areas.
Whether you need any additional steps or not, the key is to keep going back to the dentist for regular teeth cleanings to prevent problems altogether. By understanding what’s going on in advance, you’ll feel more at ease — and maybe even look forward to these appointments.
Dentist Irvine Dr. Jeevan Ghatnekar, has practiced dentistry for over 25 years with an emphasis on cosmetic, implant, and micro-dentistry. Understanding the advancing technology and science behind dentistry, Dr. Ghatnekar continually researches and implements new techniques for various procedures through advanced dental programs, master classes, and seminars. His memberships include: Orange County Dental Society, the California Dental Association, the American Dental Association, the American Academy of Implant Dentistry, and the Academy of General Dentistry.