Plaque. You may have heard it referred to as enemy number one of good oral health… you may know it as a sticky white-ish gunk that collects on your teeth… but what exactly is it?
Plaque is a biofilm. You should be familiar without the prefix “bio-” as corresponding to “life”, so that means plaque is actually alive! Plaque is actually a living bacterial mass. That means countless tiny bacterial organism clinging together and binding themselves to your teeth. Yuk, right?!
The bacteria that form plaque grow when we eat because they are nourished by the food we nourish ourselves with. Some foods, like sugar and carbs, cause them to grow faster because they can digest them so easily. As plaque digest the substances we put in our mouths, they secrete acids as by-product. These acids are what weaken tooth enamel (by disrupting the chemical bonds of the enamel) and open the door for tooth decay.
If left alone plaque dies and hardens and becomes tartar (a.k.a. dental calculus). The rough surface of tartar actually makes the proliferation of even more bacterial plaque even easier, and, unlike plaque which can be simply brushed or flossed away, tartar is stuck on to the tooth like glue. Plaque can begin to harden into tartar after about 24hours. This is why plaque must be thoroughly removed every single day.
Removing plaque is simple! You can do it at home!
• Brush thoroughly for two minutes twice a day to remove plaque from all surfaces of your teeth. Brush with a 45-degree angle around the gumline.
• Floss daily to remove plaque from between your teeth and under your gumline, where your toothbrush can’t really reach well.
• Limiting sugary and starchy foods can result in less plaque, since the bacteria thrives on those substances.
It’s also very important to keep up with your regular dental visits every 6 months for professional cleanings to get rid of any tartar from small amounts of plaque that may have escaped brushing and flossing. Tartar cannot be removed at home. A dental professional with special tools and knowledge is required to safely and adequately remove plaque.
At Mall of Georgia Dentistry, we love to empower our patients with the knowledge that great oral health is grounded on their home care routine, and the simple process of removing plaque from your teeth daily is the key to maintaining a healthy and impeccable smile!