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Everything you need to know about plaque

Plaque – it's that pesky thing threatening your teeth every day. Toothpaste commercials are constantly promising to help you fight it off – but what exactly is it?

Believe it or not, there's a good chance you have plaque on your teeth right now. Plaque is sticky, colourless film made up of bacteria that's constantly forming on your teeth. When left alone, plaque can turn into tartar and increase your risk of cavities or gum disease.

So, why does plaque occur and what can you do about it? Let's find out.

We all produce plaque every day, so it's vital that we're proactive about cleaning our teeth.We all produce plaque every day, so it's vital that we're proactive about cleaning our teeth.

What makes plaque?

You do – just like everyone else. Our mouths are full of perfectly normal bacteria that can collect on our teeth, starting from the gumline. It's both normal and expected to develop plaque on your teeth each day, and it only becomes a problem when it's not dealt with proactively.

If you eat a lot of sugary foods or even just simple carbohydrates found in milk products, for example, the plaque on your teeth can feed on these sugars and produce enamel-damaging acids.

How does plaque affect my oral health?

If plaque and the resulting acids aren't cleaned off your teeth regularly, tooth decay and cavities will occur. When left for a long time, the acids will work through your dentine and down to the pulp of the tooth. With the pulp exposed, you might develop and abscess or bacterial infection which can be extremely painful.

Plaque can also calcify, or harden, into tartar. This is a mineral buildup that is quite visible if it develops above the gumline. Unlike plaque, which is not easily noticeable, tartar stains yellow or brown and is widely considered aesthetically unpleasant. Along with not looking great, tartar can irritate your gums, resulting in gingivitis and/or a receding gum line. The only way to remove tartar is to visit a dental hygienist for a thorough cleaning.

A healthy smile starts with plaque and tartar prevention.A healthy smile starts with plaque and tartar prevention.

How can I fight plaque and tartar?

Fortunately, preventing the build-up of plaque and tartar is simple.

  • Brush your teeth for two minutes at least twice a day, making sure to thoroughly remove plaque from the surface of your teeth each time.
  • Use dental floss to remove plaque from below your gumline and between your teeth.
  • Avoid high-sugar foods and soft drinks.
  • Visit your dentist every six months for a check-up and a professional cleaning.

If you're concerned about a build-up of plaque or tartar in your mouth, give City Dentists a call on 04 978 4964 or click here to book a routine check-up.

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