No one can deny the importance of a strict oral hygiene regimen.
Taking care of the cleanliness of your teeth and mouth is incredibly important, and is your line of defense against some of the major causes of pain and discomfort such as tooth decay and periodontal disease.
Most people already know how to take care of their teeth properly, brushing twice a day with a fluoride containing tooth paste, and using dental floss as much as they can.
However, some people complain of plaque build-up on their teeth, as well as tartar or other more serious problems as decay and gum disease even though – in their opinion- they take oral hygiene very seriously.
So why is that? What is the secret of plaque accumulation on the teeth?
The answer is simple: It probably isn’t your fault !!
The fact of the matter is: Plaque will build up on your teeth eventually, regardless of how well you clean your teeth.
What is Plaque and How is it formed?
Plaque is essentially food remnants that have been left on the surface of the teeth, inviting bacteria to come and feast on these nutrients.
As a result, the bacteria secrete some chemicals creating a thin biofilm that is incredibly sticky, and that is plaque.
Plaque is considered the precursor of all problems related to the mouth, including gum disease, periodontal pockets, decay among others.
And so it is only natural to think that plaque removal should take care of all problems, but that is not entirely true, as the bacteria in your mouth will eventually overcome your cleaning, and plaque will be produced nonetheless.
The key is not to let it sit on the surface of the teeth, as we will explain later.
Is there a method to ensure that plaque never forms in the first place?
Unfortunately, there isn’t. The bacteria will always be in your mouth, and you simply cannot stop eating, so plaque will eventually be formed on the surface of the teeth.
It takes only a few hours for the bacteria to eat up the food particles in your mouth and produce the plaque biofilm, and so if you have a long day out without access to your toothbrush, you are more than likely to have plaque by the time you go home.
Where is plaque mostly formed?
Plaque can be formed anywhere on any surface of the teeth, but there are certain areas where plaque can accumulate faster and is significantly harder to clean, such as:
- Gum Line: The part where the teeth meet the gums is the number one spot for plaque buildup. This area has a micro crevice where foods get stuck and is all but impossible to clean.
- Between the teeth: It is only common sense to assume that the shielded area between the teeth is a playground for bacteria, and is inaccessible with the brush so the food remnants remain there for quite some time, which is where floss comes in.
- Across openings of salivary glands: The mouth has hundreds of salivary glands, most of them are minor, but there are 3 major salivary glands with large ducts that open in the mouth, so in these areas, the bacteria are very organized and cramped up, and it is in these areas where plaque (and eventually tartar) will mostly buildup. These areas are the inner side of the lower front teeth and the outer side of the upper molars.
- When there is a problem with teeth alignment: Plaque forming bacteria generally look for areas to be shielded from the toothbrush and floss, so if you have crooked or crowded teeth, it is highly likely that these areas will accumulate plaque and tartar pretty quickly.
- Genetics: In some cases, you are just unlucky enough to be born with the gene responsible for quick plaque buildup, in which case you need to take extra care in removing plaque and tartar from your mouth.
Another aspect to consider is your brushing technique.
We can’t say for a fact that there is only one way to properly brush the teeth as there are more than a few tested ways of brushing to remove plaque.
All you have to do is go online and type “how to brush your teeth“, and select the one that suits you the most or ask your dentist for advice, and if you find your method unsuitable or just not enough, consider switching to another method entirely.
Does this mean I can’t stop diseases of the mouth?
That is absolutely NOT TRUE.
While plaque is the first stone in the cascade of oral diseases, it is not dangerous by itself, meaning it is not the disease, it is just the prodrome.
Imagine if you have a headache and start to feel your nose becoming runny, and therefore you take a large dose of vitamin C and other medications, you would probably avert the cold altogether.
The same goes for plaque. If you notice its build-up and remove it before it can actually cause problems, you are more than likely to stay disease-free.
Plaque turns to tartar within 72 hours, after that point you cannot dream of stopping gum disease and decay all on your own, and you need intervention from your dentist or hygienist, and that is the reason why you should only floss 3 times a week since more than that is not only overkill but risk injury to the gums as well.
What else can I do to remove plaque from teeth?
Again the number one method of oral hygiene is the same as before.
Brush your teeth twice a day with a fluoride-containing tooth paste (Fluoride forms a protective layer over the teeth minimizing the stickiness of plaque, as well as protect the teeth from decay and sensitivity) and use dental floss 2 or 3 times a week.
Of course, there are other methods for optimum oral hygiene to make sure you remove plaque properly, such as:
- Prevention of plaque build-up: Prevention is better than cure in every case, so trying to prevent plaque form accumulating is an excellent way to make sure you stay clear of tooth decay and gum disease. By staying away from sticky foods and sugary drinks, you are making it easier for the toothbrush and dental floss to clean tooth plaque more effectively.
- Mouthwash: The use of mouthwash gives 2 benefits. First, it is a liquid that helps in washing the plaque and food debris from the surface of the teeth. It also contains an active ingredient such as Fluoride or Chlorohexidine (which is an excellent antiseptic) that could aid in fighting bacteria.
- Electric Toothbrush: A normal toothbrush is sufficient in most cases, but an electric toothbrush comes in handy with people who have braces or large restorations inside their mouths.
- Water flosser: One of the most important inventions in the oral hygiene game. This device has not only made it easier for all people to floss but is significantly more effective in washing away plaque and food debris from inaccessible areas such as between teeth (even if they are crowded or crooked) and around braces.
- Frequent visits to the dentist: It goes without saying that only a dentist can help you figure out the best method of fighting and removing plaque. A dental visit every 6 to 12 months is a must.
So that’s the verdict on how to clean and prevent plaque buildup. It is important to remember that if your methods are correct as advised by your dentist, then it is probably isn’t your fault that you cannot prevent plaque.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why do I still have plaque on my teeth after brushing?
You either have very deep crevices at your gum line (which is invisible to the naked eye) or your brushing method is wrong.
There are a few ways of brushing your teeth which you can find online, or better yet ask your dentist’s advice.
Why do I get cavities even though I brush and floss?
Same answer as before. You probably have shielded areas in your teeth that you are unaware of, or your brushing method is not sufficient to properly remove and prevent plaque.
Our advice is speaking to your dentist about upping your oral hygiene game.
Can I scrape plaque off my teeth?
That is highly inadvisable. Using anything other than the brush is very harmful to the teeth and gums.
In most cases brushing and flossing are more than sufficient to get rid of plaque.
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String floss causes pain and gum bleeding. A water flosser uses a stream of water to effectively remove plaque. Learn more: Best Water Flosser Review – Ditch String Floss For Good