Dental Plaque: What is Plaque and How Can It Be Removed

what is dental plaque

You’ve probably heard your dentist or even dental commercials mention the word “plaque” and how it’s bad for your teeth. But you may not know what it really is and the best way to get rid of it. Read on to learn more about dental plaque, what it is and how to get rid of it.

What is dental plaque? 

Dental plaque is actually a “biofilm” that coats your teeth. This sticky film is that fuzzy or coated feeling you have in your mouth when you first wake up or maybe even later in the day if you haven’t had a chance to brush after lunch.

Plaque is a community of living microbes surrounded by a sticky polymer layer. It might appear as a milky or white film on the teeth or around the gumline. It is caused when the remnants of sugary foods, snacks or drinks are left in the mouth, and bacteria begin feeding on it. As they feed, they produce acids. If left unchecked, these acids can cause gum disease and gingivitis, cavities and other types of tooth decay.

Plaque that isn’t removed will turn into tartar, a hard off-white or yellowish substance that typically appears along the gumline, but can grow in between the teeth and underneath the gums. Flossing can remove some tartar, but more than likely you’ll need a dentist to remove it completely, especially if it’s below the gumline.

How to remove dental plaque

Our mouths have their own mini-ecosystem of bacteria and it’s important to maintain a proper balance with good oral health habits. Plaque build up can be avoided by practicing the following steps.

Daily oral hygiene habits

Removing dental plaque starts first and foremost with good oral hygiene. Brushing for two minutes, twice a day and flossing twice a day, at a minimum, will help keep the majority of plaque at bay.

Electric toothbrushes can be particularly effective at removing plaque, or some dentists recommend using a baking soda toothpaste. And of course, don’t forget to floss so you can remove plaque that has formed below the gumline or in between teeth.

Using mouthwash as a final step can assist in preventing plaque build-up. Try one that is specifically formulated for gingivitis or supporting healthy gums.

Visit your dentist twice a year

Next, make sure to keep up with your twice yearly teeth cleaning exams. You’ll need a dental professional to remove any extra sticky or stubborn plaque or tartar, especially if it’s started to form between the teeth or gumline.

These appointments are especially important if you’re prone to gum disease as plaque and tartar buildup can cause gum infections or “pockets” below the gumline. You won’t be able to reach this build up yourself with just floss, and you may not be able to see it. So never skip your appointments! It may help you avoid bigger problems in the future.

Drink lots of water and eat healthy snacks

Water plays an important part in preventing plaque build up. When we’re properly hydrated, our saliva production increases. When our mouths stay moist and we produce plenty of saliva, it’s less likely that sugars can stick in our mouths and cause plaque.

Water can also help you when you’re unable to brush right away after meals or snacks. If you’re stuck during the day without a toothbrush, always rinse your mouth thoroughly with water. This step will help to rinse away sugars and food particulate that bacteria love to feast on.

In addition to increasing your water intake, you can also try adding snacks during the day like apples, celery or carrots, all of which are low in sugar and act as natural “toothbrushes” for your teeth. Though they won’t replace the thoroughness of a toothbrush and floss completely, they can be a great stop-gap until you’re able to brush properly. Plus, each food has nutritional benefits beyond oral care, so you can feel good about snacking in this way!

Remember: The above information is to be used as general guidelines and you should not use this information to diagnose yourself. If you are concerned about your teeth, you should contact our Clintonville, Ohio dentists for a thorough dental exam.

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