Dental plaque is a colorless, soft bacteria build-up on your teeth which often results in a ‘fuzzy’ feeling on the surface of each tooth. These bacteria can become troublesome when they are not adequately removed through regular brushing and flossing. But what do dental plaques do? Well, for starters, they feed off the sugar in your food while producing acid in the process. After that, acid degrades tooth enamel, which causes cavities. Multiple layers of plaque can harden, which can start to form tartar. These deposits can cause cavities, gingivitis, periodontitis, and in extreme cases, tooth loss. In this article, we are going to know more about dental plaque and what you should do to avoid it.
What Exactly is Dental Plaque?
Dental plaque is a buildup of a soft layer of proteins and bacteria, also known as biofilm, in the teeth. That bacteria and proteins tend to accumulate on the surface of teeth in between brushing and flossing, thus, resulting in dental plaque. Because our teeth do not shed on their own, it cannot naturally remove plaque on its own. That is why some experts say that the bacterial community that can be found in our teeth can be one of the most diverse communities in our body. In fact, If you think about it, your skin sheds millions of cells a day, which means that it removes germs every day and gives it a one-way ticket off our body. But the bacteria on our teeth? No such luck. In fact, saliva isn’t always enough to sweep the tooth gunk away. If you do not remove it properly, dental plaque begins to harden within 48 hours, forming the hard substance called tartar (also known as calculus) in just 7 to 10 days. And unfortunately, this is the stuff your dental hygienist has to chip away at, and it is significantly harder to remove.
Causes of Dental Plaque
Everyone produces plaque, but not all plaque can lead to gum disease. A combination of electrostatic forces can cause plaque to adhere to the tooth’s surface. Bacteria can reproduce on the surface of the teeth, and it will increase in density, which helps with the development of plaque. The mouth, on the other hand, also provides a favorable environment for the bacteria to thrive. This bacteria ferment the sugar in food, converting the sugars to acids that cause the decay of the tooth. The bacteria that make up the plaque are diverse, and some are more prone to causing gum disease than others.
Additionally, plaque-related gum disease increases with poor oral hygiene habits, smoking, a weakened immune system, and diabetes. Without adequate plaque removal, the gums may become inflamed and diseased. Mild gingivitis causes the gums to look slightly red and swollen. Moderate gingivitis results in discomfort, pain, and bleeding gums after brushing and flossing. Severe gingivitis, called periodontitis, results in bad breath, bad taste, difficulty eating, and possible tooth loss.
How Do We Get Rid of Dental Plaque?
Regular brushing and flossing are crucial to removing plaque before it hardens into tartar. You should brush twice a day. You can try using electric toothbrushes because they might help remove plaque a little bit better compared to manual toothbrushes. Flossing removes plaque that can’t be reached with a toothbrush and should also be done daily – a bonus of this is not having to lie to the dental hygienist when he or she asks if you are flossing every day.
Diet can affect plaque formation; eating a well-balanced diet and limiting snacks in between meals can reduce the amount of sugar available to bacteria, lessening plaque production. Regular dental check-ups and cleanings will result in timely treatment if plaque does become problematic. Regular oral exams also detect mild and moderate gingivitis early, both of which are reversible if caught early. Lastly, maintaining a good oral hygiene may also reduce your risk of cardiovascular diseases. When gums are inflamed, plaque may enter the blood vessels and travel throughout the body, straining the cardiovascular system.
Dental plaque is caused by improper oral hygiene, allowing bacterial films to accumulate on the surfaces of teeth. Regular brushing and flossing, a proper diet along with low consumption of sugar, and daily oral exams by a dental professional can help prevent the buildup of dental plaque and tartar, and minimize the chance of having gum diseases, such as gingivitis, periodontitis, and of course, tooth decay.
Here are some products that you can try to help your gums and teeth healthy: