Plaque is a sticky, colorless film of bacteria and sugars that constantly forms on our teeth. It is the main cause of cavities and gum disease and can harden into tartar (calculus) if not removed daily.
Plaque is made up of invisible masses of harmful germs that live in the mouth and stick to the teeth.
Some types of plaque cause tooth decay. Other types of plaque cause gum disease.
Red, swollen or bleeding gums can be the first signs of gum disease. If gum disease is not treated, the tissues holding the teeth in place are destroyed and the teeth are eventually lost from your mouth.
Dental plaque is difficult to see unless it's stained. You can stain plaque by chewing red "disclosing tablets," or by using a cotton swab to smear green food coloring on your teeth. The red or green color left on the teeth will show you where there is still plaque—and where you have to brush again to remove it.
Stain and examine your teeth regularly to make sure you are removing all plaque. Try to perfect your oral hygiene habits so that you can minimize the risk of cavities and gum diseases.
Ask your dentist or dental hygienist if your plaque removal techniques are okay.
What Causes Plaque and Why Is It Harmful?
Plaque develops when foods containing carbohydrates (sugars and starches), such as milk, soft drinks, cakes or candy are frequently left on the teeth.
Bacteria that live in the mouth consume these foods, producing acids as a result. Over a period of time, these acids destroy tooth enamel, resulting in tooth decay. Plaque can also develop on the tooth roots under the gum and cause breakdown of the bone supporting the tooth.
How Do I Know if I Have Plaque?
Everyone develops plaque because bacteria are constantly forming in our mouths. These bacteria use ingredients found in our diet and saliva to grow. Plaque causes cavities when the acids from plaque attack teeth after eating. With repeated acid attacks, the tooth enamel can break down and a cavity may form. Plaque that is not removed can also irritate the gums around your teeth, leading to gingivitis (red, swollen, bleeding gums), periodontal disease and tooth loss.
How Can I Prevent Plaque Buildup?
To prevent plaque buildup, brush your teeth at least twice a day with a soft, rounded tip bristled toothbrush. Pay particular attention to the space where the gums and teeth are met
Floss between teeth at least once a day to remove food remnants and bacteria.
Use an antibacterial mouthwash to reduce bacteria that cause plaque and gum disease.
See your dentist or oral hygienist every 6 months for a check-up and professional teeth cleaning.
Ask your dentist if a dental sealant is appropriate for you. Dental sealants are a thin, plastic coating that is painted on the chewing surfaces of teeth to protect them from cavities and decay.
Eat a balanced diet and limit the number of snacks. If you need a snack, choose nutritious foods such as plain yogurt, cheese, fruit, or raw vegetables. Vegetables, such as celery, help remove food and help saliva neutralize plaque-causing acids.
Sticky bacterial plaque that builds up on your teeth and inflamed, bleeding gums do more than just threaten your dental health.
Be conscious about maintaining a healthy and clean oral environment.
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Athina Tsiorva - You Smile Dental Care