February 3, 2010

The Facts of Dental Plaque

Dental plaque is a film of bacteria that coats the teeth. After a meal, this film gives off acids that break down tooth enamel. This causes tooth decay and, in time, may lead to cavities.

If you let it build up for a long time, plaque may also harden and form tartar. That is bad news for your gums. Tartar build up can inflame your gums and make them bleed.  This may lead to gum disease and cause the gums to pull away from the teeth. It may even lead to the formation of pouches of pus and bacteria. The result may be severe tooth decay and the need to pull one or more of your teeth.

Good oral hygiene is the best way to stop plaque and put off these types of problems.

Dental Plaque and Dental Hygiene

While foods with a lot of sugar are a prime source of plaque, foods with starch are also a key cause of plaque build-up. These include foods such as breads and cereals that are part of a healthy diet. That’s why oral hygiene is so central to plaque control.

Brush your teeth twice a day to help keep plaque under control. This should include all the surfaces of your teeth: inner, outer, and those used to chew. Fluoride toothpaste is best as it helps prevent tooth decay.

Daily flossing, too, is a key part of oral hygiene. Floss cleans dental plaque and bits of food out of the areas between your teeth where it is hard to reach with a toothbrush. The use of floss is also vital to prevent gum disease. Be sure to floss gently all the way up to the top of each tooth where the tooth meets the gum line.

In addition to brush, paste, and floss, an antimicrobial or fluoride mouthwash may also be a helpful part of your daily oral hygiene regimen. Note that mouthwash use should be limited to those who are age six and above.

Dental Hygiene and Dental Check-Ups

Lastly, keep in mind that regular visits to the dentist are a basic feature of good oral hygiene. Dentists can provide further important information on plaque-fighting strategies and tooth decay prevention.