Most of you have a good idea of what plaque is- a film of grime formed by the bacteria that inhabit the mouth. Plaque is also full of the acids these bacteria secrete in response to sugar and carbohydrates that are eaten, and this acid contributes to tooth decay and periodontal disease. So controlling and removing plaque is very important! The removal of plaque is the foundation of a healthy home hygiene routine… the familiar activities of brushing and flossing!
Brushing: The toothbrush is one part of your arsenal in your daily two-part attack on plaque. Use a soft-bristled brush. Plaque is soft and effectively removed by soft bristles, which are much gentler on the gums than medium or hard brushes. Focus on the gum line all along the inside and outside of all your teeth, hold the brush at a 45-degree angle and use short circular motions, for two minutes, and repeat twice per day.
Flossing: Flossing is the other half of your plaque-busting routine. The toothbrush cannot get in between teeth and they become a hideout where all those bacteria settle down and make themselves at home in your mouth. Flossing scrapes them away and evicts them. Floss gently all the way up and down each tooth’s inner surface. Curve the floss into “c” shape around the tooth to ensure you are getting the entire surface. Wind the floss between each tooth so as to use fresh clean floss on each tooth. Or you can use dental picks or floss picks. Floss at least once per day.
Other ideas to help minimize plaque:
Take it easy on the sweets. Sugar and simple carbohydrates feed bacteria and help them multiply, so these foods create more plaque. Drinking sugary beverages all day, for example, provides constant fuel for the bacteria. Try to avoid fueling the bacteria all day long, have sweets and treats with meals or in a single sitting instead of grazing or snacking.
Brush your tongue as well, since it too can accumulate plaque, or use a tongue scraper.
If plaque is not removed frequently, it begins to harden (within 24-48 hours) and then it becomes tartar. Tartar is more difficult to remove and must be scraped off somewhat forcefully- this is what a dental hygienist does in the scaling part of a typical hygiene visit (scale and polish). Bacteria thrive in tartar and can harm the tooth enamel and surrounding gums and eventually even the bones that hold in your teeth, resulting tooth loss!
Remember- your home hygiene routine is essential to keeping plaque under control- it’s simple and takes just a few minutes a day! Follow this up with your regular cleanings and check-ups and you’ll have the upper hand on plaque. At Mall of Georgia Dentistry, we do what we can for our patients to help them have the healthiest teeth possible, but we can’t come to your house to brush them twice a day and floss them for you! Embrace the power you have over plaque, give it your best attack every day, and kick it out of your mouth!