Many people have heard of the term plaque when it comes to dentistry. Dental plaque prevention is critical for good oral health, reduced tooth decay, gum disease and fresh breath.
So what is dental plaque? It’s the furry or fuzzy build up that accumulates on our teeth and gums and is made up of billions of bacteria, their secretions and waste products. Plaque can often appear white in colour and is therefore difficult to see.
If this doesn’t sound like something you want in your mouth then it’s a good idea to read on for tips on how to reduce it and minimise any harmful effects it can cause.
Our mouths are filled with bacteria, in a process that commences from birth. Plaque buildup, also known as a biofilm, is a complex network of bacteria that begins to grow back from the moment we finish brushing our teeth. In many cases, some bacteria can be helpful to maintain a healthy mouth, but harmful varieties are also present that contribute to tooth decay and gum disease.
The longer you go between brushing and flossing, the more substantial and potentially damaging the plaque buildup becomes. Bacteria attach to the tooth surface and are particularly attracted to areas such as tooth grooves, the gumline or in between teeth, where they can find a niche to grow and multiply. The harmful bacteria contained in plaque produce acid as a waste product, which begins to dissolve or rot the tooth surface away. If these bacteria reach the nerve inside a tooth they can cause toothache and infection. Other varieties are responsible for periodontal disease, where the gum, bone and other supporting tissues are destroyed causing bleeding, inflammation and in advanced cases, teeth become excessively loose and require removal.
So if you want to prevent plaque buildup, you probably already know that brushing and flossing are at the top of the list. The humble toothbrush is the best defence against plaque buildup when used correctly. Dentists and Oral Health professionals recommend that you brush twice per day; after breakfast and before bed. It is critical to try to brush every surface of every tooth and be systematic in your approach. Removing plaque from the biting surfaces, including all grooves, the inside (tongue side) and outside (cheek side) areas of the top and bottom teeth. A soft brush is best to remove plaque without damaging the underlying tooth or stripping away the gum resulting in sensitivity.
When you are finished brushing your teeth should feel smooth and shiny. The fuzzy feeling of the plaque build up should be gone and it is important to use your tongue to check all areas of mouth for a fresh, clean feeling. For most people, a standard fluoride containing toothpaste is all that is required.
Most people don’t floss. Which is a shame as there is no better way to reliably prevent plaque buildup between your teeth. Your brush cannot access these areas, so flossing once per day in the evening will break up the plaque and remove food debris. If not removed, there is a higher chance of developing gum disease, bad breath and decay on the surfaces in between teeth. Find a floss that is waxed, and has a flat, ribbon shaped profile. It is important to be thorough and gentle when flossing. Pulling the floss carefully between teeth and holding it up against the tooth surface either side of the gap as you move it up and down. As a general rule, healthy gums do not bleed if flossed gently. Many people get put off flossing due to excessive bleeding, but having a dentist demonstrate the correct technique is a great idea. Having a professional clean twice a year is also a great way to remove plaque build up and access areas you may not be able to reach effectively.
Mouth rinse is not deemed necessary if your brushing and flossing are being done correctly. If you imagine plaque is like dried mud on a floor. Mouthwash would be the equivalent of pouring a bucket of water over it and expecting it to be cleaned away. Unfortunately it is not going to be effective. The process of brushing and flossing is likened to mopping and gently scrubbing the build up away by breaking it down and allowing the ingredients in the tooth paste to work. Using mouthwash after brushing can assist with giving the sense of fresh breath and some additional disinfection, however the improvements are marginal. If you choose to use mouth rinse, it is important to use an alcohol free product. There are some more specialised rinses that may be recommended by your dentist if you have elevated risks of decay or gum disease.
So to have a clean, and fresh feeling it always comes back to basics. Brush twice per day and floss once per day to remove the furry, fuzzy plaque!
Please call us today at these numbers for a consultation and professional advice on how to prevent dental plaque.