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Plaque: Definition, Causes and Prevention

What is plaque?

Plaque is a sticky but soft film building up around your teeth. Plaque contains millions of bacteria and if unremoved can lead to gum problems and tooth decay.

No, not the kind of plaque you get at an awards ceremony when you’ve done a good job.

This is the kind of plaque you want to avoid having at all.

But what is this type of plaque?

And how can it affect your overall oral health if you experience more than just plaque deposits?

The good news is that plaque can be easily removed just by practicing good oral hygiene habits like brushing and flossing daily. If not, then the bacteria will release harmful acids and damage tooth enamel causing more advanced tooth problems such as periodontitis.

So what’s the difference between plaque and tartar?

Plaque and tartar are two different things. Plaque is the soft film in your teeth, while tartar is a hardened plaque. The latter is hardened enough that it requires dentist care to remove it.  If left untreated, it could lead to more serious problems like gingivitis, periodontitis and tooth loss.

What habits causes plaque problem?

There are a lot of causes of plaque formation. Most of it involves not practicing good oral hygiene habits. These are:

  1. Not brushing your teeth regularly: There are social consequences if one doesn’t brush regularly. Even if it’s not visible, remember that bacteria are microscopic and it immediately sticks to your teeth secreting acids to potentially damage your teeth and self-esteem.
  2. Not flossing: Although you may brush your teeth every day every after a meal, there are still parts, which are not reached by the bristle. There are the corner pockets in between and behind your teeth that only flossing can reach.
  3. Eating the wrong types of fruits and vegetables: Even before the creation of toothpaste much less fluoride, there were “natural toothbrushes” that helped clean your teeth. These include apples, cucumbers, carrots and other fruits.
  4. Too much starch: Bacteria thrives on carbohydrates such as sugar and sweet foods. Eating too many sweet foods, seldom washing your mouth or drinking water, it gives an opportunity for bacteria to dwell in your mouth and the remaining starch will become acid and in turn damage your teeth.

How to prevent plaque formation

  • Brushing your teeth is essential:  According to the American Dental Association, brushing once a day may be good but twice a day is better. It brushes off the plaque formation in your teeth. It is best to use fluoride toothpaste with a soft-bristled toothbrush brushing your teeth for 2 minutes in a circular motion including your gums, tongue and even the insides and back of your teeth.
  • Flossing every day: Flossing is important because it reaches parts of your teeth that toothbrush can’t.
  • Eating and living healthy: Maintaining a balanced diet is very crucial because carbohydrates and starchy foods negatively affect your oral health if left untouched. If you can’t resist too much sweet food, always make sure to brush your teeth after eating as well as drinking lots of fluid. You can also substitute sweet and unhealthy foods to fruits and vegetables like carrots, apples, cucumbers, etc because these are “natural toothbrushes” that wash out plaques.
  • Visit your dentist regularly: Make seeing your dentist at least semi-annually a priority. Your dentist can tell whether your teeth need special attention and they can prescribe toothpaste and mouthwashes to remove plaque and bacteria from your mouth.

Keep up a healthy mouth, a healthy life, and just maybe a “plaque free” plaque will come your way to hang on your wall.


Disclaimer: The oral health information published on this web page is solely intended for educational purposes. Hawaii Family Dental strongly recommends to always consult licensed dentists or other qualified health care professionals for any questions concerning your oral health.

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