Have you ever noticed that after a dental cleaning your teeth look sparkly and white, but over time they appear more dull and yellow? That yellowish color comes from plaque, a sticky film substance made out of bacteria.  

What is Plaque?

Plaque is an extremely sticky, colorless to pale yellow deposit of biofilm that regularly forms on your teeth. When saliva, food, and fluids combine they produce bacteria deposits, which collect where the teeth and gums meet. Plaque contains bacteria, which produce acids that attack your teeth enamel and can damage your gums. If not treated, the damage could become permanent. It contains millions of bacteria that feed on the food and drinks you have every day. If bacteria deposits from plaque on teeth aren't removed through regular brushing and flossing, they can cause tooth decay, gum disease, and tartar buildup.  

If you don’t take the steps needed to prevent and get rid of plaque, it may lead to:  

1. Halitosis or Bad breath- Plaque buildup from poor dental hygiene can cause your breath to smell bad.

2. Cavities- The acids produced by the bacteria in plaque can cause low pH (pH is the measure of acidity or basicity of an aqueous solution) level and can eat away at your tooth enamel, leading to cavity formation in teeth.

3. Gingivitis- Accumulation of plaque bacteria can cause inflammation of the gums, also known as gingivitis.

Plaque hides between teeth and under the gum line. There’s no way to avoid it entirely, so it’s important to maintain good oral hygiene to keep it from accumulating. 

Certain foods, especially carbohydrates (foods containing sugar or starch, such as milk, soft drinks, cake, and candy) are big contributors to plaque growth. 

Tips For Good Oral Practices and Management of Plaque

1. Follow the Proper Technique of Brushing, Twice Daily 

Make sure you should brush two times a day, after breakfast and dinner. Hard bristles can be rough on your gums, so use only a soft or medium bristles toothbrush. Remember to replace your toothbrush every 2 to 3 months.

How to brush your teeth correctly:

A. Hold your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to your gums while you brush. 

B. Use gentle, circular strokes.

C. Cover your entire mouth, outer and inner surfaces, and the tops of your teeth. 

D. Brush your tongue to scrape away bacteria and freshen your breath.

E. Spend at least 2 minutes on brushing.

2. Clean Between Your Teeth

Tooth brushing alone doesn’t help in the removal of plaque between your teeth. Teeth aren’t the only places where plaque gathers. It also hides in the spaces between your teeth. 

Tools which can be used between the teeth to remove plaque are:

  • Dental picks

  • Pre-threaded flossers 

  • Small, straight brushes that fit between your teeth 

  • Water flossers 

  • Wooden plaque removers 

Floss your teeth once every day, after brushing at night. Flossing gets rid of sticky food and plaque between the teeth, where your toothbrush cannot reach. Just make sure you do it. 

3. Swish With A Mouth Wash

Rinse your mouth with a mouth wash after every meal.  A few points to remember about using a mouthwash are:

  • Rinse daily with an antiseptic mouthwash to help kill bacteria that cause plaque, early gum disease, and bad breath. 

  • Fluoride-containing mouthwash helps prevent tooth decay. Some mouthwashes have both antibacterial ingredients and fluoride.  

  • Rinse your mouth for at least 30 seconds.  You can use a mouthwash before or after you brush and floss.

Some mouthwashes with alcohol can dry your mouth out. That’s not good for plaque prevention. Your saliva helps keep your mouth healthy. Dry mouth can lead to a buildup of a type of plaque called sticky plaque, which is harder to clean. Discuss with your dentist which mouthwash might be right for you. 

4. Visit Your Dentist Regularly

Most of your plaque prevention happens with your daily oral care routine. However, it is important to see your dentist twice a year. You may be doing a great job at your home in maintaining teeth but still, there are some areas that are difficult to reach and clean properly. 

Besides cleaning the spots you might have missed, your dentist can tweak your tooth techniques and catch any issues early, before they become bigger problems.  

Regular brushing, using a mouthwash, flossing, and timely visits to your dentist will prevent the growth of plaque, thereby protecting your teeth and gums life-long. It's important to consult your dentist if you see any signs of plaque buildup.

Disclaimer: This article is written by the Practitioner for informational and educational purposes only. The content presented on this page should not be considered as a substitute for medical expertise. Please "DO NOT SELF-MEDICATE" and seek professional help regarding any health conditions or concerns. Practo will not be responsible for any act or omission arising from the interpretation of the content present on this page.