The Facts on Plaque

icon of magnifying glass showing plaque on tooth

You brush your teeth twice a day, and you floss once a day like your dentist insists. But do you really know the facts on plaque buildup in and around your teeth? Chances are, you’ve been hearing different pieces of advice over the years—from brushing more to using special toothpaste or adding mouthwash to your dental routine—that maybe haven’t added up into an expert-backed understanding. Discover here the real facts about plaque, how it can form in hard-to-reach places, and what steps both children and adults should be taking to control it.

What is Plaque and How Does it Form?

Dental plaque is a sticky, colorless film that forms on teeth and gums. It is composed of a complex community of microorganisms, including bacteria, fungi, and viruses, as well as various components from saliva and food particles.

The bacteria in dental plaque feed on sugars and starches in the food we eat and drink, producing acids that can erode tooth enamel and cause cavities. If plaque is not removed regularly through brushing, flossing, and regular dental cleanings, it can harden and turn into tartar, which is a hard, yellow or brown substance that sticks to the teeth and can only be removed by a dental professional using special tools.

Dental plaque also contains other substances, such as proteins, lipids, and carbohydrates, which can contribute to its sticky texture and ability to adhere to teeth and gums. The precise composition of dental plaque can vary depending on factors such as diet, oral hygiene habits, and genetics.

Plaque forms in the mouth when bacteria combine with saliva and food particles to create a sticky, colorless film that adheres to the teeth and gums. The bacteria in plaque feed on sugars and starches in the food we eat and drink, producing acids that can erode tooth enamel and cause cavities.

There are several factors that can contribute to the formation of plaque, including:

  • Poor dental hygiene: Failure to brush and floss regularly can allow plaque to build up on teeth and gums.
  • Sugary or starchy diet: Eating foods that are high in sugar or starch can provide a food source for bacteria in the mouth, contributing to plaque formation.
  • Dry mouth: Saliva helps to wash away food particles and neutralize acids in the mouth. When there is insufficient saliva production, plaque can form more easily.
  • Medical conditions or medications: Certain medical conditions or medications can affect saliva production or composition, increasing the risk of plaque formation.
  • Genetics: Some people may be more prone to plaque formation due to genetic factors.

The Benefits of Regular Plaque Removal

Regular plaque removal is essential for achieving and maintaining excellent oral health. By regularly removing plaque, you can decrease the risk of the following dental problems:

  • Cavities: Plaque can cause the bacteria that causes tooth decay.
  • Gingivitis: Plaque buildup along the gum line can irritate and inflame gums, leading to gingivitis.
  • Periodontal Disease: If plaque is left untreated for long periods of time it can lead to periodontal disease, which is a more serious form of gum disease.
  • Bad Breath: Plaque can also cause bad breath, as the bacteria it contains breaks down food particles and releases unpleasant odors.

As such, it’s important to get your teeth professionally cleaned every 6 months at least – but even daily brushing and flossing helps – to ensure that your pearly whites stay healthy and strong.

Common Methods for Removing Plaque

Oral hygiene is a vital part of staying healthy, and many people turn to common methods for removing plaque from their teeth. The best ways to remove plaque include:

  • Brushing: Brushing your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste is an effective way to remove plaque. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and brush all surfaces of your teeth, including the fronts, backs, and chewing surfaces. Use a circular motion to reach all areas of the mouth.
  • Flossing: Flossing once a day is important to remove plaque and food particles that are stuck between teeth and in hard-to-reach areas. Use a gentle back-and-forth motion to clean between each tooth.
  • Mouthwash: Using an antiseptic mouthwash can also help to kill bacteria and remove plaque. Mouthwash can reach areas of the mouth that brushing and flossing may miss, and can also freshen breath.
  • Professional cleaning: Regular dental cleanings by a dental hygienist or dentist can also help to remove plaque. During a professional cleaning, the dental professional uses special tools to remove plaque and tartar from the teeth and gums.

It’s important to note that if you already have significant plaque buildup, it’s best to see a dental professional for a cleaning. Attempting to remove large amounts of plaque at home can cause damage to the teeth and gums. By maintaining good dental hygiene habits and getting regular dental check-ups, you can help to prevent and remove dental plaque and keep your teeth and gums healthy.

How Do Dentists Remove Plaque?

Dentists and dental hygienists use a variety of tools and techniques to remove plaque from teeth and gums. The exact methods used may vary depending on the extent of the plaque buildup and the patient’s individual needs, but some common techniques include:

  1. Scaling: This is the process of using special tools to remove plaque and tartar buildup from the teeth and gums. The dental professional will use a scaler to gently scrape away the buildup, focusing on areas around the gum line and between teeth.
  2. Polishing: Once the plaque and tartar have been removed, the dental professional will use a special polishing tool to smooth and polish the surface of the teeth. This helps to remove any remaining surface stains and leaves the teeth feeling smooth and clean.
  3. Fluoride treatment: In some cases, the dental professional may apply a fluoride treatment to the teeth after cleaning. Fluoride helps to strengthen the tooth enamel and protect against future plaque buildup and tooth decay.
  4. Education: Finally, the dental professional will educate the patient on proper dental hygiene habits, including brushing and flossing techniques, and may provide recommendations for products like toothbrushes and mouthwash.

Overall, the goal of plaque removal in a dental office is to remove all visible plaque and tartar buildup, smooth the surface of the teeth, and provide education and recommendations for maintaining good dental hygiene habits at home. By getting regular dental cleanings and practicing good oral hygiene habits at home, you can help to prevent plaque buildup and maintain healthy teeth and gums.

In Conclusion

By following the advice in this post, you will have a better understanding of how plaque forms, the importance of its removal, and various methods for removing it. Regular cleaning through brushing and flossing is important to reduce buildup of plaque. But professional cleanings from dental hygienists are just as vital–these regular visits can ensure that your teeth remain healthy and strong. Taking appropriate steps to effectively remove plaque will help keep your mouth clean and healthy for years to come! Though it may take a little effort on your part, keeping up with basic dental hygiene habits is well worth the effort; so why not start now? Take charge of your oral health today by committing to regular dental visits!

Dr. Sisko

Dr. Gerald Sisko graduated from Ohio State University College of Dentistry in 1987. He is an active member of the American Dental Association, the Ohio Dental Association, and the Akron Dental Society where he is currently holding a council position. He has had the honor and distinction of being awarded “TOP DENTIST” in Akron and Cleveland as well as Northeast Ohio for the last several consecutive years.


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