Dental plaque is an issue we can avoid through cleaning our teeth properly. But exactly what is it, how does it develop, and what happens if we don’t get rid of it? Here are the sticky facts.
What is plaque?
Plaque is a sticky, colorless ﬁlm of bacteria that lives on the surface of your teeth and along the gumline. It accumulates from normal daily activities such as eating and drinking, especially if you’ve been consuming a lot of sugars and starches. The fuzzy feeling you sometimes feel on your teeth? That’s plaque, and a good brushing will do plenty to make it go away.
What causes plaque?
Traces of foods containing carbohydrates can remain on your teeth after you eat, and their sugar feeds the natural bacteria in your mouth, causing it to form plaque. This produces acids that wear away tooth enamel.
Which foods and drinks are the biggest culprits?
Some of the foods and drinks that most commonly contribute to plaque’s formation are refined starches made with white flour and/or sugar, such as white bread, chips, crackers, pasta, cakes, cookies, candy, muffins, raisins; and drinks including milk, soda, and sports drinks.
What happens if plaque remains on my teeth?
A few things can happen if you don’t care properly for your teeth. Over time, they’ll begin to decay as the sticky substance produces the acids that break down tooth enamel. Plaque can develop on the surface of your teeth, and also in their roots under the gums. This can cause the supporting bone around the teeth to break down, and can lead to gum disease.
Plaque that remains on teeth can also form tartar—the calciﬁed substance that only a professional cleaning can remove.
Does it cause bad breath?
When food particles remain on or between your teeth and plaque begins to form, it can give you bad breath.
Yikes! If I can’t brush right away, will rinsing with water help?
Rinsing with water after eating (or a sweetened drink) is always a good idea. It helps clear your mouth of food particles that could promote plaque buildup.
Will a special mouthwash or mouth rinse help?
You can buy various plaque-reducing mouthwash products in the pharmacy, but their effectiveness will vary depending on their ingredients. Furthermore, using some mouthwashes for too long can lead to dry mouth or teeth staining. Mouthwash isn’t a substitute for proper flossing and brushing.
How can I avoid plaque buildup on my teeth?
It’s as easy as 1-2-3!
- Be sure to brush thoroughly twice a day for two minutes each time.
- Give your teeth a good flossing once daily. Flossing removes substances and particles that your toothbrush cannot reach.
- Visit your dentist regularly—at least twice a year—for a professional dental cleaning by your hygienist.