When it comes to dental health, we hear a lot about plaque. What you may be asking is, “what is it, exactly, and what do I do to prevent it?” Here we will discuss what plaque really is, what happens when plaque is not addressed properly, and give you some tips on how to keep plaque from causing issues for your dental health.
What is Plaque?
Plaque is a soft, sticky film that has the potential to build up on the surface of your teeth when they are not properly brushed and flossed. This plaque contains millions of bacteria that can cause tooth decay and gingivitis if not regularly cleaned off of the surface of your teeth through proper cleaning and oral hygiene.
From Plaque to Periodontitis: A Progression of Symptoms
Cavities: When we eat, the sugars in our food are consumed by the bacteria in the plaque on our teeth to produce acids that eat away at the enamel on our teeth. If this cycle continues, the repeated attacks cause the enamel to lose strength and break down. This eventually results in cavities.
Tartar and Gingivitis: Not only that, but if plaque is allowed to remain on your teeth for long periods of time, it can harden into a substance called tartar. Tartar collects and hardens on the surface of your teeth and creates difficulty for brushing and flossing. As it collects at the gum line, gum tissue can become inflamed and eventually bleed when teeth are brushed. We know this as a symptom of gum disease, or gingivitis.
Periodontitis: From there, gingivitis, when left untreated, can advance into periodontitis. Periodontitis is a more severe form of gum disease that breaks down the gums and bone supporting your teeth. This leads to gum recession and bone/tooth loss.
At every stage of this progression, reversal is possible simply by addressing the buildup through good oral hygiene and professional dental treatment where necessary. Avoidance will only cause the symptoms to increase in severity, while addressing them can eliminate them altogether. In the next section, we will discuss how to address them more specifically for the best possible outcomes.
How to Identify Plaque on Your Teeth
Because plaque is hard to see on the surface of the teeth (it is colorless), it can be hard to detect in early stages of accumulation. As plaque strengthens into heavier deposits, however, you may notice them more easily. Watch for what looks like white deposits on the surface of your teeth, similar to what it may look like when food is stuck on your teeth.
If you are uncertain about the amount of plaque found on your teeth there is a simple identification test you can perform at home. This identification test can be performed in a number of ways, but here are two of the simplest ways:
1 – Purchase Plaque Disclosing Tablets: These chewable tablets can be purchased online or at your local pharmacy and are harmless. To use, after brushing and flossing simply chew one in your mouth, swish around, and then spit out the excess fluid and saliva. Examine your teeth for red stains. Any red stains indicate a buildup of plaque that needs to be addressed.
2 – Red Dye: Mix a few drops of food coloring in two ounces of water, then swish around in your mouth after brushing and flossing. The solution will temporarily stain any plaque found on your teeth so you can see it more easily.
For either of these methods, the use of a dental mirror may help to identify areas of staining. Once you have identified the areas of plaque, further brushing and flossing will help remove these temporary stains as well as clean the plaque off your teeth.
Fighting plaque isn’t complicated, but it does require diligence. Due to the fact that plaque is constantly growing in your mouth, you must remain vigilant with proper brushing and flossing daily. Staying vigilant in the fight against plaque will prevent the progression to more severe issues and keep your teeth and gums healthy.
We at Cooper Family Dentistry care about your overall oral health and are here to help you succeed in the fight against plaque. If you have any concerns about plaque buildup in your mouth or any other dental question, please call our office so we can help you get on the right track towards the healthiest mouth possible. To schedule an appointment, call our friendly office staff at 501-982-7547 or, for your convenience, fill out an appointment request here.