What Is Tooth Plaque and Why Is It So Important to Keep It Away?

What is tooth plaque

We know it’s not the most attractive topic, tooth plaque. But the truth is that tooth plaque is part of our daily lives. Trying to prevent the development of tooth plaque is the primary reason we brush and floss our teeth every day. Preventing it keeps our teeth strong and healthy and helps keep our breath smelling fresh and clean. Yet when we don’t adhere to our oral health routine, tooth plaque can get out of control even after one day. Read on to better understand what you need to know about tooth plaque and why you should make it a daily goal to keep it away.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly About Tooth Plaque 

Let’s start with the obvious: tooth plaque is not good. It is that sticky, colorless film of bacteria that forms on your teeth. The stuff makes your teeth feel fuzzy when you wake up or forget to brush your teeth. But the problem is, when you forget to brush, that plaque turns into tartar or calculus, and only your dentist can get rid of it at that point.

Plaque forms when the bacteria in your mouth mix with sugary or starchy foods. This means that even the most common foods and beverages you enjoy daily, such as milk, juice, soft drinks, bread, pasta, and fruit, can cause damage to your teeth, especially if you don’t practice good oral hygiene. These bacteria release acids that break down carbohydrates in the foods and beverages you don’t consume. When you neglect to brush your teeth after eating or drinking, or at least twice daily, that combination of bacteria, acids, and carbohydrates mix into a sticky, colorless film, called plaque.

You can think of tooth plaque somewhat like a town with all the residents having their own job. Mature bacteria have the job of sticking to the teeth; some bacteria form tubes where nutrients are transported, and other bacteria dissolve dental enamel to produce energy to feed the plaque. When these bacteria are left to their own devices, they aren’t harmful to your teeth. But once they’re organized as plaque, they can have serious and not-so-friendly consequences on oral health. Tooth plaque can cause disease in as little as 24 hours after forming. 

The repercussions of tooth plaque on your oral health.

When we don’t take care of our teeth through a good daily oral hygiene routine and regular trips to the dentist, it can have some pretty harsh consequences on our oral health. As mentioned above, tooth plaque can cause disease in just one day. It can eat away at your dental enamel, causing tooth decay. Plus, plaque buildup can lead to gingivitis or severe periodontal disease. When the plaque hardens into tartar (also called dental calculus), its bacteria can cause bad breath and cause your teeth to turn yellow.

Taking steps to prevent plaque build-up must be part of your daily priorities. Here is what you can do to keep dental plaque to a minimum.

  • Visit your Maryville dental care office every six months for a professional dental cleaning and oral evaluation.
  • Make sure you brush your teeth properly, using a soft-bristled toothbrush for two minutes at a time. Plaque will form if you consistently miss one or two areas every time you brush.
  • Floss your teeth at least once daily, preferably after your last meal and before you go to bed. If you find the manual flossing technique cumbersome or too difficult, invest in a water flosser that can help eliminate food particles that have become stuck in those hard-to-reach areas.
  • Limit frequent snacking of sugary or starchy items. Choose tooth-friendly snack alternatives include cottage cheese, crunchy vegetables, and unsalted or low-salt nuts.
  • Avoid acidic beverages such as carbonated soft drinks and fruit juices.
  • Drink four to six cups of water daily to keep your body hydrated and help rinse away food particles and debris.
  • If you are experiencing dry mouth, let your dentist know. A dry mouth can be caused by other health conditions such as diabetes, stroke, yeast infection (thrush) in your mouth, Alzheimer’s disease, or due to autoimmune diseases, such as Sjogren’s syndrome or HIV/AIDS. However, your dentist may be able to help you with a treatment plan so you don’t miss out on your mouth’s natural moisture that can help rinse away harmful bacteria. 
  • If you have bleeding gums, it could be a sign of gum disease. Let your dentist know so that you can partner together on a treatment plan to keep gingivitis from progressing

Schedule your next dental appointment with Compass Dental Group.

Our goal at Compass Dental Group is to help our patients maintain healthy teeth and a happy smile. When we keep dental plaque under control, it helps prevent tartar buildup on your teeth, thus preventing gum disease. And one of the best ways to keep tooth plaque away is to practice a good oral care routine at home and visit your dentist every six months for a professional dental cleaning.

If you are overdue for your dentist’s appointment or concerned about dental plaque, now is the time to request an appointment. We look forward to seeing you.