Everyone has some amount of plaque on their teeth, no matter how much they brush and floss. Many people rely on their dentist when they come in for their twice-yearly checkup/cleaning appointments to remove the plaque buildup – as they should!
But did you know you can remove a lot more of it yourself than you may have thought? We provide some tips below.
What is Plaque?
Plaque is a sticky film containing millions of bacteria that collect and build up on your teeth. The bacteria in plaque is what can cause cavities in teeth, tooth decay, and even gum disease if you don’t remove the plaque by brushing and flossing your teeth twice a day.
The bacteria works with the sugars and starches in your food to create acids that will eat away at your tooth enamel. If this continues over time, your enamel can break down, resulting in a cavity in your tooth.
If you don’t brush or floss enough, plaque can harden into what is known as tartar. If the bacteria, plaque, and tartar increase, your gums can swell and become red (possibly even bleed when you brush). This is a sign of a mild form of gum disease known as gingivitis. If it worsens it can move to periodontal disease, which can lead to tooth loss. Excess plaque and tartar buildup can also be a cause of bad breath.
Types of Plaque
Plaque is a sticky, colorless film that forms on the teeth and gums. It contains bacteria that can produce acids that attack tooth enamel and cause tooth decay. Let’s understand the different types of plaque in more detail below.
Yellow plaque is a common type of plaque that can form on the teeth. It gets its yellowish color from pigments produced by certain bacteria in the mouth. Yellow plaque is often a sign of poor oral hygiene and a buildup of bacteria on the teeth and gums.
White plaque appears as a whitish film on the tooth surface and is caused by the accumulation of bacteria and food particles. White plaque is an early stage of plaque formation and can be easily removed through regular brushing and flossing.
Tartar, also known as dental calculus, is hardened plaque that has mineralized and firmly stuck to the tooth surface. It is typically yellow or brown in color and cannot be removed by brushing and flossing alone. Tartar can cause gum inflammation, leading to gum recession and tooth loss if not treated by a dental professional.
How Does Plaque Form?
Plaque forms through a process involving the accumulation of bacteria and substances in the mouth. Here’s a breakdown of how each type of plaque forms:
Formation of White Plaque
White plaque is an early stage of plaque formation. It occurs when the initial colorless plaque remains on the teeth and gums for an extended period. As the plaque continues to accumulate, it can become more visible as a whitish film on the tooth surface.
Formation of Yellow Plaque
Yellow plaque is what happens after white plaque hasn’t been treated. Over time, certain bacteria in the plaque produce pigments that give it a yellowish hue.
Formation of Tartar
If the above stages of plaque are not removed from the teeth through brushing and flossing, it can harden and mineralize, forming tartar.
How to Remove Plaque
Visit your dentist at least twice a year for a professional cleaning
Your dentist will remove plaque and tartar buildup in ways you simply can’t at home. If your dentist finds that you have an excess of plaque buildup, then you may need a deep cleaning to remove the plaque from in between the teeth and around the gums. Your dentist may recommend that you come in for a cleaning three or even four times a year. Understand that the extra expense of the additional visits is well worth having healthier teeth and gums when you’re older, which is when most of the damage caused by poor oral hygiene habits tends to catch up with us in the form of periodontal disease and tooth loss.
Brushing and flossing can keep plaque under control. But if you notice extra plaque buildup, take a look below for some at-home remedies you can try in order to remove the plaque from your teeth. Always consult with your dentist prior to starting any at-home remedies.
Use plaque-loosening toothpaste and mouthwash
There are specially formulated dental hygiene products that contain tetrasodium pyrophosphate that actually control the buildup of plaque and tartar. Special mouthwashes help control tartar buildup by removing calcium and magnesium from the saliva. Similarly, specially formulated toothpaste inhibits calcium and magnesium from bonding to the surface of the teeth. Consult with your dentist prior to use, and use these products only as recommended.
Purchase a water flosser
A water flosser is an at-home cleaner that sprays water between the teeth and gums. A water flosser cleans the teeth differently than traditional brushing and flossing because it uses water to push plaque from the teeth.
Also known as sodium bicarbonate, baking soda can neutralize the acids in your mouth, thereby reducing the number of bacteria.
- Take two teaspoons of baking soda and mix one teaspoon of salt in it.
- Dampen your toothbrush and dip it in the mixture.
- Gently brush your teeth.
You can also mix a teaspoon of baking soda with hydrogen peroxide to make a paste. Brush your teeth and gums with the paste. Don’t overuse baking soda: over time it could damage your tooth enamel.
Professional Dental Procedures for Plaque Removal
Scaling and root planing
Scaling involves using specialized instruments to carefully remove plaque and tartar buildup from the tooth surfaces, including below the gumline. This process helps eliminate the bacterial deposits that can contribute to gum disease and tooth decay. Root planing, on the other hand, involves smoothing the root surfaces of the teeth to remove any remaining plaque and tartar and promote gum tissue healing.
Dental lasers have also been used in plaque removal. Laser-assisted periodontal therapy involves using a dental laser to target and eliminate bacteria and infected tissue in the gum pockets. The laser energy helps disinfect the area and remove plaque and tartar buildup. Dental lasers can provide a minimally invasive and comfortable option for plaque removal, and they can be particularly beneficial for patients with specific dental conditions or sensitivities.
Read more: The Benefits of Chewing Gum
Diet and Plaque Formation
Diet plays a big role in the formation of plaque. Eating foods and drinks high in sugar and carbohydrates, especially sticky and processed ones, can promote plaque buildup. Acidic foods and beverages can erode tooth enamel and also contribute to plaque development. If you’re not drinking enough water, and have certain nutrient deficiencies, particularly in vitamins C and D, this can weaken gum tissue and increase the risk of plaque-related issues.
Plaque and its Role in Cavities, Gum Disease, and Bad Breath
When plaque builds up on the teeth and gums, the bacteria produce acids that attack the tooth enamel, leading to cavities. The bacteria in plaque also release compounds that contribute to bad breath. Maintaining good oral hygiene practices, including regular brushing, flossing, and dental check-ups, is essential in preventing plaque buildup and reducing the risk of cavities, gum disease, and bad breath.
The best way to prevent buildup of plaque and tartar is to practice good daily oral hygiene by brushing and flossing your teeth twice a day. While no at-home remedy can substitute for what a professional dental cleaning can remove, taking steps to prevent and treat dental tartar and plaque are good ways to keep your smile healthy.