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Updated on July 14, 2022

How to Remove Plaque From Teeth

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What is Plaque?

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 enamel. 

Some signs of plaque build-up include:

  • A fuzzy feeling on the teeth
  • Bad breath and taste in the mouth
  • Gums that appear red, swollen, and that bleed after brushing
young woman brushing teeth

Importance of Plaque Removal

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 so by a trained dental professional.

Complications of plaque and tartar include:

6 Ways to Remove Plaque From Teeth (At Home)

1. Floss

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.

2. Use baking soda 

Some studies have looked into the effects of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) toothpaste.1 They discovered the toothpastes that contain 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: 

  • Antimicrobial properties that may prevent tooth decay.3
  • A high pH that can balance the pH level inside the mouth. This prevents demineralization, which refers to mineral loss in teeth that weakens enamel and leads to cavities.4
  • Inexpensive product (easily found in grocery stores and online).

3. Brush with an electric toothbrush

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

4. Use fluoride toothpaste

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

5. Try oil pulling

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.

Instructions:9

  • Practice oil pulling first thing in the morning.
  • Use a tablespoon of warm oil.
  • Swish for 5 to 20 minutes, forcing the oil through and around your teeth.
  • Do not swallow any of the oil.
  • Spit the oil into a trashcan or paper towel. Never spit into a sink, as oil can clog the pipes.

6. Use mouthwash

Using an antimicrobial mouthwash kills bacteria that causes 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

When to See Your Dentist

Regular dental check ups 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:

  • Your gums hurt, or are red and swollen. This could be the initial stages of gingivitis, a reversible type of gum disease. 
  • Your gums bleed after brushing or flossing.12
  • You have a toothache. This may indicate a cavity.
  • You have tartar build-up on your teeth

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.

Professional Treatments for Plaque Removal

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 that has built up on your teeth and give advice on how to clean your teeth at home.12

Tips for Preventing Plaque Build-Up

Preventing plaque buildup is better than removing it once it forms. There are a number of things you can do to stop plaque forming:

Chew sugar free gum

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.

Brush your teeth after meals

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 build up. 

How to use the “Modified Bass Technique” to brush teeth:

  1. Hold your toothbrush at a 45 degree angle to your gum line so that the toothbrush bristles can clean under the gumline
  2. Brush teeth using a gentle, circular motion
  3. Brush the front of the teeth, back of the teeth, chewing surfaces, and tongue

Other tips

  • Brush and floss twice a day for 2 minutes a time
  • Visit the dentist for regular cleanings
  • Use a dental water flosser, an interdental brush, or dental sticks
  • Limit sugary foods and beverages
  • Use fluoride toothpaste and mouthwash

Summary

Plaque naturally forms on teeth surfaces when bacteria reacts with food particles. If the plaque is not removed, it can cause tooth decay. 

By adopting a good oral hygiene routine and visiting your dentist regularly, you can prevent plaque from causing serious issues.

16 Sources Cited
Last updated on July 14, 2022
All NewMouth content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to ensure the information is factual, current, and relevant.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only cite from current scientific research, such as scholarly articles, dentistry textbooks, government agencies, and medical journals. This also includes information provided by the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
  1. Putt, M. S. et al “Enhancement of plaque removal efficacy by tooth brushing with baking soda dentifrices: results of five clinical studies” J Clin Dent, 2018
  2. Myneni, S. R. “Effect of baking soda in dentifrices on plaque removal” The Journal of the American Dental Association, Nov. 2017
  3. Zero, D. T. “Evidence for biofilm acid neutralization by baking soda” The Journal of the American Dental Association, Nov. 2017
  4. Neel, E. A. A. et al “Demineralization–remineralization dynamics in teeth and bone” Int J Nanomedicine, Sept. 2016
  5. Grender, J. et al “Plaque removal efficacy of oscillating-rotating power toothbrushes: review of six comparative clinical trials” Am J Dent, Apr. 2013
  6. Toothbrushes” American Dental Association, Feb. 2019
  7. Aoun, A. et al “The Fluoride Debate: The Pros and Cons of Fluoridation” Prev Nutr Food Sci. Sep. 2018
  8. Peedikayil, F. C. et al “Effect of coconut oil in plaque related gingivitis — A preliminary report” Niger Med J. Mar-Apr. 2015
  9. Shanbhag, V. K. L. “Oil pulling for maintaining oral hygiene – A review” J Tradit Complement Med., Jan. 2017
  10. Prasad, M. et al “The Clinical Effectiveness of Post-Brushing Rinsing in Reducing Plaque and Gingivitis: A Systematic Review” J Clin Diagn Res., May 2016
  11. Oral Hygiene” Cleveland Clinic, n.d.
  12. Why You Should See Your Dentist” American Dental Association, 2013.
  13. Sealants” Cleveland Clinic, n.d.
  14. Dental Sealants” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2021
  15. Burt, B. A. “The use of sorbitol- and xylitol-sweetened chewing gum in caries control” The Journal of the American Dental Association, Feb. 2006
  16. Patil SP, Patil PB, Kashetty MV. Effectiveness of different tooth brushing techniques on the removal of dental plaque in 6-8 year old children of Gulbarga. Journal of International Society of Preventive & Community Dentistry. 2014.
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