Dental plaque is a biofilm, or a mass of bacteria that grows on the teeth. At first, it is a sticky colorless deposit, but as it hardens and forms tartar (also known as calculus), it changes into a brown or pale yellow color. The rate at which plaque and tartar grows is different for each individual and influenced by several things: brushing and flossing habits, diet, and frequency of dental visits being some of them.

Plaque can only be cleaned off of the teeth at home before it starts to harden into calculus; once it hardens it must be removed by a professional. Brushing the teeth twice a day for two minutes is critical to keeping the teeth free of the bacteria that live in the plaque, and a tartar control toothpaste containing fluoride is preferred if you happen to build up plaque quickly. One area that commonly has more plaque and tartar buildup is the tongue side of the bottom front teeth, and a good way to keep this area clean is to dedicate a full 30 extra seconds of brushing just in this area. The areas in between the teeth make up about 30% of the total tooth surface in the mouth, and are a great place for plaque and tartar to hide. Flossing is essential to prevent gum disease and decay from developing in between the teeth. Electric toothbrushes are more efficient than manual ones and may help remove more plaque. In addition, an antiseptic mouth rinse can be used after brushing and flossing to kill any bacteria that are left over.

Crunchy fruits and vegetables such as apples, carrots and cucumbers naturally clean plaque off of the teeth as you bite and chew. Choosing these healthy options as snacks not only provides good nutrition but also promotes good oral health as well. On the other hand, soft fruits such as bananas, or soft processed snack foods contribute to faster buildup and the proliferation of decay-causing bacteria.

As I mentioned before, the process of plaque formation is constant in the mouth. Even patients with excellent brushing and flossing habits will probably build some up over time. For this reason it is important to visit your dentist at least twice per year for a routine cleaning to avoid heavy buildup. Our experienced hygienists here at Creekside Dental provide some of the best cleanings in the Tri Cities. Please read some of our Google reviews- we have over 360 currently and they speak for themselves. We look forward to your next appointment!

– Barbara Harris, R.D.H.