Teeth are essential to our daily lives. They help us enjoy our favorite foods, speak, and help us smile. Strong and healthy teeth can last a lifetime. But there is one major enemy which you need to protect your teeth from, dental plaque! Plaque is the major cause of tooth decay and gum disease (NIH).
What is dental plaque?
Dental plaque is a sticky film which is always forming on your teeth. Plaque forms when bacteria in your mouth mixes with sugary or starchy foods and beverages, such as milk, juice, soft drinks, bread, or pasta. It begins to build up on your teeth within a few minutes after eating.
Can plaque harm my teeth?
Teeth are very durable, but vulnerable to sweets and starchy foods. Bacteria in plaque produce acids that attack the tooth enamel, the outer hard layer that protects the dentin and pulp within the tooth. This acidic substance eats away at the enamel and, if left unattended, can lead to cavities.
Plaque that is not removed can harden into tartar. Tartar buildup can bond strongly to tooth enamel, making it difficult to keep your teeth clean. It can also irritate the gums which can cause serious gum disease and tooth loss. Tartar can only be removed by a dental professional. This is why it is important to remove plaque daily.
What can I do to reduce plaque and tartar buildup?
- Brush your teeth. Brush with a fluoride toothpaste twice (2) a day for two (2) minutes. Fluoride toothpaste helps strengthen and protects tooth enamel.
- Floss every day. Cleaning between your teeth daily helps remove plaque between teeth and the gum line.
- Use a fluoride oral rinse. An oral rinse (mouth rinse) helps fight harmful bacteria and reduces plaque buildup.
- See a dentist regularly. Routine dental cleanings by a dental professional can help remove any plaque or tartar buildup. Dental exams help detect and treat any issues with your teeth or gums before they become bigger problems.
Extra tips to reduce plaque
- Chew sugarless gum. Chewing sugarless gum has been shown to increase the flow of saliva, which helps reduce plaque acid.
- Choose healthier food options. Crisp, raw fruits and veggies such as apples, celery, and carrots sticks help clean plaque from teeth.
- Drink water. Water cleans your mouth with every sip. It washes away leftover food and sugar.