What is Plaque and How to Avoid It?

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The first and most important step in avoiding plaque is understanding what it is and how it affects your overall dental health. Also known as tartar, this substance is something that every single human deals with on a daily basis. The foods you eat and the things you drink each day all leave a build-up on your teeth and gums. When actively managed, this build-up does not have to cause much harm. Often, however, plaque is left to grow between brushing, flossing and dentist visits. When it gets left too long, the result is a number of complications – some of which can be surprisingly serious to your health.

In this guide, we share some advice on plaque, showing you how to avoid plaque and giving you a better idea of what causes a build-up of plaque in the mouth.

Understanding & Avoiding Plaque

Once you have a better understanding of the causes and nature of plaque, it will become a lot easier to start avoiding plaque. Here are some important facts to keep you informed.

What is plaque?

First up, what is plaque, anyway? Plaque is essentially a layer of sticky, colourless bacteria that forms on the teeth and gums. It often makes your teeth feel a bit fuzzy to the tongue – especially when you have not yet brushed your teeth in the morning or at bedtime. When you skip brushing your teeth or flossing regularly, you will begin to see a build-up in plaque. This is risky to your overall health and not just to your teeth and gums, as it causes an increase in inflammation within the body that can lead to a number of health concerns.

What causes plaque?

Plaque is caused by foods and drinks that contain carbohydrates. When milk, cool drinks, bread, sweets, dried fruit, cake, and other foods are often left on the teeth, bacteria begin to thrive. They produce acids that quickly start to grow. Proper brushing removes about 40% of bacteria and flossing is essential to remove the remaining build-up of food. If that layer of plaque is not removed within the first 48 hours, it starts to harden and calcify. At this point, it is much harder to remove with brushing and flossing. Tooth decay then becomes a much higher risk. Plaque can also grow on the tooth roots beneath the gum, which can affect the bone around the teeth. If you have ever had bleeding gums, it could be due to plaque building below the gums. This stage is known as gingivitis and needs attention from a dentist before it has the chance to become gum disease.

How can you prevent plaque?

  • Brush at least twice a day using a soft toothbrush that does not irritate gums. Brush carefully around the area where your gums meet your teeth and use a good toothpaste that contains fluoride.

 

  • Floss at least once a day to remove excess bacteria and food particles. Read our guide to flossing your teeth for tips on how to floss correctly.

 

  • Rinse after brushing using an antibacterial mouthwash. This will help to remove any bacteria that has somehow been missed during brushing and flossing.

 

  • Don’t skip your dentist appointments. Visit your dentist in Durban every six months for a proper check-up and oral cleaning. This will help to catch any issues before they become more serious.

 

  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet. Try to avoid snacking between meals, or choose real foods such as plain yoghurt, fruit and raw vegetables such as celery that help to remove food particles between the teeth and neutralise plaque-causing acids in other foods.

If plaque is driving you a bit mad, be sure to see your dentist in Gateway as soon as possible for a check-up. Being proactive and avoiding plaque is the best way to keep your teeth and gums as healthy as possible.

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