What is dental plaque?
Dental plaque is a biofilm that forms on the surface of teeth through the build up of colonizing bacteria in the mouth. There are over 20,000 different species of bacteria in our mouths but only around 1,000 of these bacteria bond to become dental plaque. There is no way we that we can completely clear our mouths of plaque causing bacteria, but we can stop the build up before it becomes a problem, but more on that later.
At the beginning stages of plaque forming it is a soft, sticky film and quite easy to remove by brushing. However, after around 2 days the plaque begins to get harder and adheres more firmly to teeth. After around 10 days time if the plaque is not removed it becomes dental Calculus, more commonly know as tartar. It’s at this stage that problems arise as this hardened tartar is very difficult to clean from teeth, professional dental techniques will be required to remove it.
Why is dental plaque bad for our teeth?
There is a very negative consequence to allowing dental plaque to stay on teeth for a long period of time. I have detailed below three very unfavourable side effects caused by the failure to remove plaque effectively.
Saliva plays a natural and very important role in protecting our teeth against dental caries, also know as tooth decay. Saliva is an alkaline which acts to neutralise harmful tooth destroying acids in our mouth and also helps to wash away debris of food.
Dental plaque is made up of harmless microorganisms that are naturally found in our mouths. These microorganisms produce acids which cause tooth decay but in normal conditions our saliva offers protection to teeth by neutralizing the acid. However, if the plaque is not brushed away it will build up into a thick layer and microorganisms within the plaque that are closest to the surface of the tooth will convert to anaerobic respiration. At this stage the plaque will be producing teeth destroying acids but because it has now formed into a thick layer, saliva is not able to penetrate and neutralize the acids resulting in tooth decay.
Periodontal disease, more commonly known as gum disease is the inflammation or infection of the gums. Gum disease is split into two types which are judged by level of severity. The first is gingivitis and is the milder form of gum disease. It is most commonly caused by plaque bacteria which causes inflammation of the gum.
The second type is the more serious condition which affects the gum that joins the tooth and is called periodontitis. This condition is caused by the worsening of gingivitis. In sever cases of periodontitis it can cause a gap to develop between the tooth and gum results in the tooth becoming loose and falling out.
If dental plaque builds up it will form a hardened layer of yellow coloured tartar on the surface of teeth. This tartar is not only an unsightly yellow colour itself but is more prone to staining and needs to be removed by a dental professional.
What’s the best way to remove plaque from teeth?
Most people believe that as we get older our teeth fall out naturally, when in fact the most common cause of tooth loss as we age is because of dental plaque.
Fortunately plaque is easy to remove in its early stage of development by simply brushing. As mentioned, plaque is a biofilm if bacteria that builds up on the surface of the tooth. Regular brushing will break up the soft biofilm and it will cease to build up and turn into tartar.
Using a regular toothbrush is effective at removing plaque but a good quality electric toothbrush like the Oral B triumph 5000 is clinically proven to remove twice as much. This Oral B triumph 5000 electric toothbrush also has a built in timer which ensures you follow the dentists recommended 2 minutes of brushing for maximum plaque removal.
Flossing is also a very good way to remove more plaque from around teeth. I know that flossing can be quite time consuming and boring which is why most people fail to do this. However, there is a very cool product from Philips called the Sonicare AirFloss HX8111/02 which effortlessly cleans between teeth with a powerful burst of water and air. You can even fill the Sonicare AirFloss with mouthwash for even better cleaning between teeth.
Finish off brushing by using a good mouthwash to kill off some of those plaque causing bacteria. This will not kill 100% of the bacteria in your mouth but it will reduce their numbers and slow down the build up of bacteria until your next brushing time.
Chewing sugar free gum between brushing is another great way to reduce the build up of plaque. Chewing gum stimulates your mouths natural defence – saliva. As previously mentioned our saliva neutralizes the harmful acids in our mouth and helps to clean teeth.
Finally, make sure to make regular visits to your dentist for check ups and professional advice.