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Plaque: What Is It and How Do I Treat It?

Dentist in Chicago

We’ve all heard of plaque and know that it’s not something we want a lot of in our mouths, but how much do you truly know about this naturally occurring substance?

Defining Plaque

At its core, plaque is a sticky, colorless substance comprised of bacteria that perpetually builds up on our teeth and along our gums as the day goes on. The bacteria in plaque is what causes both tooth decay and gum disease, and therefore the removal of plaque is vital to the upkeep of our oral health. When plaque is not cleared away in a timely fashion by brushing and flossing, it can harden or calcify into tartar, a harmful substance that attaches to teeth and gums and can cause lasting damage.

Knowing it’s There

If you have a mouth, you’ve got bacteria constantly growing in it. These bacteria form the plaque that sticks to our teeth and gums, and even the most diligent of brushers will have plaque forming throughout the day. Although it’s hard to see plaque, leaving it on your teeth for too long may cause red, inflamed gums or irritation to the gumline in a condition known as gingivitis. Left untreated, gingivitis can advance to gum disease and lead to tooth loss. Tartar, on the other hand, is easier to see because it is a buildup of minerals. Often yellowish or brown, it will rest on the lower portion of the tooth and can only be removed with a thorough cleaning from your dentist.

Reasons for Plaque

Anything that enters your mouth has an impact on it. From the foods you eat to the drinks you drink to the cigarettes you smoke, everything is introducing another substance for bacteria to thrive on. Sugars in particular are a favorite of bacteria, and sugary foods are known to be a direct cause of plaque buildup. Because plague is sticky, it is easier for more of it to build on top of itself if it isn’t cleared away regularly by brushing and flossing.

Avoiding Buildup

Even though plaque is constantly building up in our mouths, clearing it away and preventing lasting damage are relatively easy if we follow a diligent oral health routine! It’s vitally important to brush your teeth first thing in the morning to clear away any bacteria that grew overnight as well as immediately before bed to ensure your mouth is clean before sleeping. Flossing daily will help clear plaque in hard to reach places and using a mouthwash can help finish the job. Limiting the amount of sugar you ingest is another crucial way to avoid feeding the bacteria that harm your teeth. And, of course, regularly visiting your dentist will help keep your oral health on track and alert you to any changes you may need to make to your routine.

If you’re concerned about the amount of plaque buildup on your teeth, or if you would like to schedule a regular dental cleaning to help clean your plaque slate, give us a call at Oradent Associates in Chicago to schedule your next appointment today!

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If you have a general question, comment, or need to schedule an appointment, feel free to send us a message! For emergencies, or to cancel or reschedule an appointment, please call our office at:
(773) 478-5520