A Guide to Plaque

Plaque is your worst enemy when it comes to keeping your teeth clean and free of decay. In this article, we’re going to take a closer look at what plaque is, how it develops and what exactly we need to do to keep it at bay! Most of us have heard of plaque. But a closer look at what it is and how it actually affects the health of our teeth can be revealing.

Plaque is building up on our teeth all the time. Every minute of every day. A soft deposit that contains millions of bacteria, plaque forms a thin, sticky film on the teeth. When we eat certain foods – especially sugary foods and carbohydrates – they interact with the bacteria in the plaque and acid forms. Because the plaque on our teeth is so sticky, the acid clings to our teeth and, over time, it can dissolve the enamel. Ultimately, this leads to tooth decay.

Unfortunately, that might not be the end of the problem either. Plaque which is not removed from the teeth can harden and turn into calculus. This is much more difficult to remove. It is also the precursor to the spread of gum disease, which is one of the main reasons why adults lose their teeth.

Gum disease is a problem that escalates unless it is treated. The build-up of plaque can cause the bacteria to irritate your gums, so that your gums can become swollen and sore. This is called gingivitis and it is fairly common. If you do not have gingivitis treated, it can escalate into periodonitis which is a far more serious form of gum disease. As the bacteria in the plaque causes the gums to recede, pockets form where more plaque can build up. The plaque in these pockets is very difficult to remove and it is able to attack your teeth right at their roots. If left untreated, this will ultimately cause your teeth to loosen and fall out.

Of course, that’s what we don’t want to happen. So how can plaque be removed?

Luckily, plaque is fairly easy to remove by regular brushing. Therefore, sticking to a good oral hygiene regimen is important. Dentists recommend that you should brush twice every day for at least two minutes at a time. If you are unsure about the best technique for brushing your teeth, consult your dentist. They will be able to demonstrate the best methods to ensure that plaque is removed and they will also be able to recommend the right type of toothbrush. You should buy a new toothbrush at least every three months, as they become less effective at removing plaque over time.

Dentists and oral hygiene experts also recommend that you floss regularly. One of the dangers of plaque is that it can accumulate at the base of your teeth where it is hard to reach by brushing. Flossing will help to remove this plaque before it starts to damage your teeth.

The third part of your oral hygiene programme should be regular visits to your dentists. Plaque only causes significant problems if it is allowed to build up and harden into calculus. If you visit your dentist regularly, they will be able to identify pockets of plaque that your brushing and flossing has failed to remove. Your dentist will be able to remove these pockets of plaque for you. Alternatively, they may recommend that you visit an oral hygiene specialist, for a scale and polish.

You should aim to visit your dentist at least once every six months. Ideally, you should also have a scale and polish at least once every twelve months.

If the plaque on your teeth has hardened and turned into calculus, this requires much more in-depth cleaning around the roots of the teeth and the gums. This procedure can be painful so you will require a local anaesthetic. If there is a large build up of calculus, your dentist may recommend that you have it removed over a number of visits.

Finally, it is also important to remember that the bacteria in your plaque reacts with sugary snacks and drinks. Therefore, if you are concerned about tooth decay, avoiding these types of food will help.