Preventing Plaque Buildup

It’s hard to stay away from sweets, but knowing they’re the cause of severe plaque buildup might make it a little easier. Everyone has dental plaque to some degree, but when there’s too much, it can cause serious issues.

Plaque is a sticky film of bacteria that mixes with the sugary or starchy foods you consume. Without proper oral hygiene, the bacteria and acids in your mouth create a transparent or dull yellow film that settles between your teeth and gum line.

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Although everyone produces plaque, bad breath and swollen, tender gums that bleed after brushing are common signs of excessive plaque buildup. Furthermore, untreated plaque can destroy tooth enamel and cause complications such as severe infections, cavities, gingivitis (inflammation of the gums) and periodontitis (periodontal disease).

The good news? Plaque buildup is preventable! Consistent tooth and gum care is key to reducing plaque. Here are some easy but essential ways to maintain healthy oral hygiene:

  • Brush twice a day. Brush teeth for two minutes with a soft-bristled, round-tip toothbrush (manual or powered). Make sure to brush at a 45-degree angle and pay particular attention to the space where gums and teeth meet.
  • Floss daily. Floss once a day with dental floss or a water flosser to release food and plaque stuck between teeth. It’s important to note that flossing before brushing removes more plaque, as the released plaque is removed from your mouth by brushing.
  • Use mouthwash. Finish your oral routine by rinsing with an over-the-counter or prescription antiseptic mouthwash. Mouthwashes that include chlorhexidine and essential oil–such as menthol, eucalyptus and thymol–have antifungal and antibacterial properties that help tackle plaque. When choosing a mouthwash, make sure to look for one that has the American Dental Association (ADA) Seal of Acceptance. This seal means it’s been tested for effectiveness, and not every mouthwash has, including some well-known brands.
  • Eat healthy foods. Stick to a well-balanced diet and limit the number of snacks between meals. Substitute sugary, starchy foods for nutritious foods like plain yogurt, cheese and raw fruits and vegetables. Vegetables such as celery can aid in removing food and help saliva neutralize plaque-causing acids.
  • Chew sugarless gum. If you can’t brush soon after eating or drinking, chew sugarless gum with the ADA seal. The physical act of chewing increases salivary flow in the mouth, and chewing gum can help neutralize and wash away the acids produced when food breaks down.
  • Visit your dentist. It’s important to schedule a routine dental checkup at least twice a year. During annual examinations, we remove plaque with a scaler instrument, brush teeth with gritty toothpaste and professionally floss to remove existing plaque.
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By taking a few extra minutes each day to make your oral health a priority, like selecting ADA-approved products and adding flossing and rinsing to your routine, you reduce the risk of plaque complications and improve your overall oral health. Additionally, semi-annual checkups allow me to identify issues before they become severe. If you’re overdue for a cleaning, give me a call or schedule an appointment today!