What is plaque and how does it affect your teeth?
Plaque is a sticky film of bacteria that covers our teeth and, when we eat something, these bacteria release acids that attack the tooth enamel.
When these attacks are repeated over time, the enamel will break down and this will eventually lead to cavities.
When plaque is not removed through daily brushing and cleaning it hardens into calculus or tartar. When tartar collects above the gum line, brushing and cleaning between the teeth becomes more difficult.
The gum tissue can become swollen or may bleed. This is called gingivitis and it is the early stage of periodontal (gum) disease.
There are several steps you can take to protect yourself against this happening:
- Brush your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste.
- Clean between teeth daily with floss or an interdental cleaner.
- Eat a balanced diet and limit the number of snacks between meals.
- Visit your dentist regularly for professional cleanings and oral exams.
- Ask your dentist about sealants these are protective coatings that can be applied to the back teeth where decay often starts.
If you take steps to remove the plaque each day, you have a greater chance of avoiding tooth and gum problems.
Daily dental tips to cut down on plaque
The best way to remove plaque from the tooth surfaces is by brushing and cleaning between your teeth every day. You should brush your teeth twice a day, with a soft-bristled brush. The brush should fit your mouth comfortably, allowing you to reach all areas easily.
When you use toothpaste that contains fluoride, this also helps to protect your teeth. You can help even more by cleaning between the teeth once a day with floss or interdental cleaners. This removes plaque from between the teeth in areas the toothbrush can’t reach.
By taking a few steps each day to look after your teeth – and visiting your dentist regularly, you’ll be able to enjoy healthy teeth and a great smile all your life.
The keys to keeping your mouth healthy
A healthy mouth is a good indication of your overall health and helps you to keep a great smile and continue eating what you want for many years to come.
There are a few steps you can take to make sure your mouth is as healthy as possible:
- Brush your teeth twice a day using a good quality toothbrush.
- Renew your toothbrush regularly. It will only keep your mouth healthy if the brush is in good condition and the bristles are strong. You should replace it at least every three or four months.
- Clean between your teeth. Your toothbrush can’t reach everywhere and bacteria can linger between the teeth so its important to clean between them every day using floss or an interdental cleaner.
- Visit your dentist regularly for professional cleaning and oral examinations.
Your dentist will be able to give you tips on what other products you should consider to help improve your oral health. For example, antimicrobial mouth rinses and toothpastes can reduce the germs in your mouth and reduce the risk of gum disease. Also, fluoride mouth rinses can help reduce and prevent tooth decay. Studies have shown that using mouth rinses provides valuable protection over and above that provided by fluoride toothpaste alone.
Look out for the ADA seal when buying toothbrushes and other dental products. This is a sign that the product has met American Dental Association standards for safety and effectiveness.
Following these steps can help ensure that you continue to enjoy great oral health.
Choosing the right toothbrush for your needs
It would be easy to get overwhelmed by the huge range of dental care products now available. Even looking just at toothbrushes present a wide range of choices.
There are hundreds of manual and powered toothbrushes to choose from. Start by looking for products that carry the American Dental Association Seal of Acceptance – this is an important symbol of a the product’s safety and effectiveness.
When you buy a toothbrush, replace it every three to four months. Replace it sooner if the bristles become frayed as a worn toothbrush will not clean your teeth properly.
Make it easy for your children to brush their teeth by choosing a child-sized toothbrush and make it more interesting for them by selecting fun colors and designs.
Often people who have difficulties with hand, arm or shoulder movements find that powered toothbrushes are the best choice. However, it’s also possible to make a few small changes to modify a manual toothbrush and make it easier to use.
For example, you can:
- Enlarge the handle with a sponge, rubber ball, or bicycle handle grip.
- Lengthen the handle with a piece of wood or plastic.
- Bend the handle slightly while running it under hot water.
Your dentist will give you tips on what toothbrushes would be right for your needs.