Dental Plaque: What You Need to Know

September 29, 2020

Plaque, like many oral health concerns, begins as a silent menace. You may recognize this colorless, sticky film as the fuzzy coating you feel when you first wake up. For many people, a colorless film on the teeth may be the only sign. However, in some cases, more noticeable symptoms, such as receding gums or bad breath, occur.

What is plaque and what causes it?

Plaque forms in your mouth throughout the day as you eat and drink and every night as you sleep when foods that contain carbohydrates (i.e., sugars and starches) are left on the teeth. Bacteria that live in the mouth feed on these foods and produce acids. Plaque is known as a “biofilm” because it is actually a community of living microbes surrounded by a gluey polymer layer. The sticky coating helps the microbes attach to surfaces in the mouth, so they can grow into thriving micro-colonies.

How do I treat plaque?

Proactive dental care is the best way to manage plaque. This includes brushing and flossing your teeth regularly, limiting sugary foods and drinks, and seeing your dentist twice a year to have plaque thoroughly removed. If brushing with a regular, soft-bristle brush isn’t enough, you may want to consider using an electric toothbrush and/or adding a toothpaste that contains baking soda. Additionally, mouth rinses that contain small amounts of menthol, thyme, wintergreen, and eucalyptus oils, have been shown to help reduce plaque and gingivitis.

What happens if plaque isn’t removed?

If plaque is not removed regularly when it’s soft, it can combine with minerals from your saliva to create crystals that harden into tartar. Tartar, which generally has a yellow or brown color, builds up along the gumline on the front and back of your teeth. If left untreated, tartar can lead to a number of complications including cavities and gum disease. It’s important to note that plaque that has hardened into tartar cannot be removed with regular brushing and must be scraped away by a dental professional. Our dentists and oral hygienists can remove this during your regular dental checkup and cleaning.

Contact our office today to schedule your next checkup!

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