Plaque is a sticky issue! It gathers around braces and sticks to the enamel of our teeth above and below the gum line. Plaque is one of the leading causes of tooth decay and gum disease, and it attacks our teeth on a daily basis.
What do we know about plaque and how can we combat it? Continue reading to learn about some successful strategies!
What Is Plaque?
Plaque is a sticky film that forms on our teeth and is comprised primarily of millions of different types of oral bacteria. Plaque starts out as a colorless biofilm, but as it builds up, it takes on a white or yellow hue. Plaque build-up is the fuzziness you feel on your teeth if you haven’t brushed in a few days. Plaque hardens into tartar in a matter of days if it isn’t removed.
Tip: Plaque can be removed with careful brushing and flossing, but tartar requires the assistance of a dental professional. Take the initiative!
Why Does Plaque Lead to Cavities?
Bacteria in plaque feed on our food, particularly sugars and carbohydrates. They can then convert these nutrients into acids, which attack our tooth enamel, weakening it and exposing it to further erosion and decay.
Tip: Cavities aren’t the only problem caused by plaque buildup. Plaque builds up along and below the gum line as well. If tartar builds up here, it irritates the gums, causing gingivitis and more severe gum disease. When brushing and flossing, don’t forget about your gums.
When Does the Buildup of Plaque Happen?
Because oral bacteria are a natural part of our genetics, plaque is always forming. (In fact, there are bacteria that are good for your mouth.) Plaque begins to form minutes after eating and continues throughout the night as we sleep.
Brushing for two minutes at least twice a day and flossing at least once a day is recommended. Brushing your teeth more often while wearing braces or aligners is a good thing. Plaque loves food that collects around braces or inside aligners. Inquire with our doctors and team at Georgia School of Orthodontics about the best brushing schedule for you.
Tip: Just because plaque is inevitable doesn’t mean we should give plaque bacteria any extra encouragement. You’re getting more fuel for acid production every time you eat a meal or snack high in carbs and sugars. Cutting back on sugary desserts and sodas is not only good for your wellbeing, but it’s also good for your teeth!
Where Does Plaque Build-up?
Plaque accumulates on tooth surfaces, along the gum line, and sometimes below it. It’s particularly easy to overlook in difficult-to-reach areas like molar irregular surfaces, between teeth, behind our front teeth, and near the gum line. Plaque gathers around your braces as well, necessitating extra attention to avoid cavities or demineralization white spots on your teeth.
Tip: Plaque’s invisibility is one of the ways it avoids detection. If you’re having trouble brushing away all of your plaque, there are plaque-disclosing toothpastes and chewable tablets available in the dental aisle that tint plaque between, behind, and around your teeth with a visible color. Simply brush off the color, and you’ve removed the plaque as well.
How Can We Remove Plaque?
Use the Correct Tools
Floss your teeth at least once a day. Floss comes in a variety of materials, sizes, and coatings, so you can find one that is right for you. Floss gets to those hard-to-reach places between teeth and along the gum line that brushes can’t reach.
Change your toothbrush every three to four months, or as soon as the bristles show wear, if you have a soft toothbrush (soft bristles are better for your enamel). Make sure the head is the right size—it’ll be uncomfortable if it’s too big, and you won’t be able to reach all of the surfaces you need to.
Tip: There are dental flosses made specifically for braces. You can also scrub around wires and brackets with interproximal brushes and a water flosser. Consider an electric toothbrush if you’re having trouble removing plaque around your teeth and braces with a manual toothbrush. The use of an electric brush has been shown in several studies to reduce plaque.
Use the Correct Toothpaste
There are a variety of toothpastes designed specifically to combat plaque and tartar. Fluoride toothpastes can also strengthen your enamel in addition to preventing cavities.
Tip: Studies have shown that toothpastes containing baking soda are especially effective at reducing plaque. When you visit our Atlanta or Gwinnett office ask our team for a suggestion.
Use the Right Technique
What can you avoid doing? A forceful horizontal sawing motion is inconvenient, damaging to your enamel, and misses plaque and debris between your teeth. Technique is important in keeping your teeth clean!
To gently remove plaque from teeth and gums, hold your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle, particularly at the gum line. To clean as much of the surface and between the teeth as possible, use short strokes or a circular motion. Brush the inside of your front teeth with gentle vertical strokes—this is one area where plaque is easy to miss. The same goes for the tops of your molars, so clean those uneven surfaces carefully.
If you have braces, make sure to clean around the brackets and wires regularly, as plaque can build up quickly.
• Tip: If you have clear aligners, make sure to brush them gently as well! Plaque may adhere to aligners, causing discoloration and odors, so be sure to carefully follow our cleaning instructions.
Who Can Help You Combat Plaque?
Plaque can be a sticky problem even though you do your best at home. That’s why we recommend professional cleanings on a regular basis, which will not only remove any hidden plaque but also any tartar that has built up around your braces. And, of course, you will learn everything you need to know about keeping your teeth clean.
You have to fight plaque on a daily basis, but you have everything you need to keep your teeth and gums healthy. Every time you eat a nutritious meal and brush and floss your teeth, you’re winning the plaque battle. Plaque doesn’t stand a chance against such a tactic. And what about your brilliant smile and strong teeth and gums? That’s a win to be proud of!