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Plaque is a sticky film that builds up on teeth and gum surfaces. Plaque forms when bacteria break down carbohydrates from food into acid.
The acid in plaque mixes with leftover food particles, damaging tooth enamel if not removed properly. Plaque causes cavities when it repeatedly damages the enamel.
Some signs of plaque build-up include:
Plaque appears as a soft, sticky coating on the surface of the teeth and between the teeth. It’s not always easy to see. It ranges in color from translucent to pale yellow.
When plaque builds up, it can make the teeth appear yellow and/or orange.
Learn about the safest ways to whiten your teeth.
Eating foods that contain carbohydrates, like sugars and starches, causes plaque buildup on the teeth. Bacteria feed on the sugars in the food particles and produce acids.
Common foods that can cause plaque buildup include:
Plaque can make teeth look dull and yellow. It also causes enamel damage, which can lead to tooth decay.
When plaque stays on teeth too long, it can harden into tartar. This is more difficult to remove and can only be done by a trained dental professional.
Complications of plaque and tartar include:
Everyone accumulates plaque on their teeth. However, some people may be at higher risk for severe plaque buildup than others.
You may be more likely to develop plaque buildup if you have:
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Removing plaque right away can help prevent any further complications associated with it. Here are some ways to remove plaque from your teeth:
Flossing before brushing your teeth is one of the best ways to remove plaque. It dislodges anything stuck between the teeth or in the gums. This makes brushing teeth more effective.
Some studies have looked into the effects of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) toothpaste.1 They discovered that toothpastes with baking soda helped remove significantly more plaque than those without baking soda.2
The study also found that toothpaste with baking soda could reduce plaque in the more hard-to-reach areas of the mouth.
Baking soda has other benefits, including:
Brushing your teeth using an electric toothbrush has been proven to be more effective than using a manual toothbrush.5 Always aim to brush your teeth for at least 2 minutes, twice daily.6
Many toothpastes contain fluoride. Fluoride helps prevent tooth decay by making enamel more resistant to acids. It also helps rebuild enamel and slows decay.
Some studies suggest fluoride can stop tooth decay that has already started.7
This is where people swish or rinse their mouths with oil. You can use sesame oil, sunflower oil, or coconut oil.
A 2015 study noticed a significant decrease in the amount of plaque in participants’ mouths.8 However, there are also some potential downsides of oil pulling. These include jaw soreness and gastrointestinal upset from swallowing the oil that now contains bacteria.
Using an antimicrobial mouthwash kills bacteria that cause plaque. Because mouthwash can reach spaces between the teeth and gums that toothbrushes can’t, research shows a significant reduction in plaque with consistent mouthwash use.10
Visiting the dentist for a teeth cleaning every six months is essential for good oral health.
Dentists clean areas of the mouth that you might miss at home. They can also remove plaque or tartar buildup on your teeth and advise you on how to clean your teeth at home.12
Regular dental checkups that include cleaning and polishing can keep your teeth free of plaque and tartar. You should see your dentist every 6 months.11
You should also visit your dentist if:
Never try to remove tartar at home. Although several dental tools are available for purchase in stores, they are easy to misuse and might cause severe damage if not used properly.
Preventing plaque buildup is better than removing it once it forms. There are a number of things you can do to stop plaque forming:
Research shows that chewing gum with sorbitol or xylitol can help prevent plaque from building up.15 Avoid gum containing sugar, which will encourage bacteria to grow, causing more plaque.
This is especially important if you eat or drink a lot of sugary and starchy foods. These stick to the teeth and cause bacteria and plaque buildup.
How to use the “Modified Bass Technique” to brush teeth:
The bacteria in your mouth feed on starchy and sugary foods. These kinds of food stick to your teeth, so try to limit them in your daily meals and snacks.
Your dentist can remove plaque or tartar during your regular teeth cleaning. You should visit your general dentist at least once every 6 months.
Plaque is a sticky film that forms on the surface of your teeth. It’s created by bacteria that develop from eating carbohydrates.
A significant buildup of plaque can be dangerous to your health. It can cause tartar, gum disease, cavities, and more.
You can prevent plaque buildup by practicing good oral hygiene. If you have significant plaque buildup, visit your dentist for a professional cleaning.
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