If your teeth have ever felt “fuzzy” rather than smooth and polished, what you’re feeling is actually dental plaque. Plaque is a combination of saliva, food particles, and bacteria that naturally forms on the teeth.
Plaque is essentially a byproduct of eating. What happens is the bacteria in your mouth start breaking down food as you chew, which can cause plaque to form, particularly when eating foods high in sugar or carbohydrates. Brushing your teeth—and flossing to clean the spaces in between your teeth—removes plaque, which prevents it from becoming problematic.
Although plaque is natural, it can cause harm to your dental health. Plaque has a harmful effect on teeth, meaning it can wear away tooth enamel over time. Once the protective layer of enamel over your teeth is gone, it can’t be replaced, which can lead to an increased risk for cavities, tooth sensitivity, and even tooth discoloration.
Plaque can even harden into tartar, a calcified form of plaque, which can further jeopardize your dental health. Let’s take a closer look at dental plaque and tartar, including their symptoms, home remedies, and when to see your dentist in Asheville.
Symptoms of Plaque and Tartar
One of the most noticeable symptoms of plaque is feeling it on your teeth. Teeth may feel textured instead of smooth. You can most notice this difference after brushing your teeth—take note of how your teeth feel both before and after you brush them.
Dental plaque typically isn’t visible on the teeth, unless it builds up, in which case it can have a yellow or brownish appearance. Plaque tends to build up in areas that are difficult to reach with your toothbrush or floss (which is why those regular dental cleanings are so necessary!).
Other symptoms of plaque and plaque buildup can include:
- Swollen or irritated gum tissue
- Bad bread that won’t go away
- Teeth sensitivity
- Discolored teeth
If plaque isn’t removed, it can turn into tartar. Once tartar has formed, you will need to have it professionally removed. Although plaque can be removed through brushing and flossing, tartar needs to be removed by your professional dentist.
Tartar can be a brown or even black color when it builds up on teeth. Symptoms of tartar include discolored teeth, deposits that can’t be removed with brushing and flossing, and bad breath. Tartar buildup can also cause gum tissue to become irritated and bleed.
Plaque and tartar are responsible for chronic bad breath, tooth decay, and gum disease, so keeping your teeth as clean as possible and seeing your dentist for regular checkups are essential to preventing oral health issues.
Getting Rid of Plaque at Home
As plaque builds up constantly in the oral cavity due to bacteria and the fact that we eat and drink throughout the day, it’s important to remove it regularly. You can get rid of plaque by brushing and flossing every day. Electric toothbrushes tend to be better at removing plaque, so if you have the means to switch to an electric brush, this is a worthy consideration.
Flossing once a day is a must to remove plaque that accumulates beneath the gumline and between your teeth. When flossing, be sure to scrape plaque off the sides of teeth by making a “C” shape with the floss, wrapping it around each tooth and flossing gently on the sides and just underneath your gumline.
You can also help reduce plaque buildup in the oral cavity and get rid of existing plaque by:
- Eating healthy foods. People who consume more sugar tend to have higher amounts of cavity-causing bacteria in their mouths as the result of more dental plaque. Eating nutritious foods such as vegetables, fruit, whole grains, healthy fats, and lean meat can help reduce the plaque in your mouth. In fact, raw crunchy vegetables or fruits can even help remove plaque from teeth since they require lots of chewing.
- Chewing sugar-free gum. Sugar-free gum, especially gum that contains a sugar-free natural sweetener called xylitol, has been shown to help prevent cavities. Sugarless gum can reduce the effect of plaque on the teeth, which can help protect tooth enamel. However, sugar-free gum should never be used in place of brushing and flossing.
- Consider mouthwash. Although mouthwash isn’t strictly necessary when it comes to your oral care, people who struggle with plaque buildup may benefit from using a daily mouthwash. Research shows mouthwash helps remove plaque better than brushing and flossing alone.
Regardless of what home remedies you attempt for plaque removal, it’s important to follow up with your dentist to ensure plaque and tartar aren’t compromising your oral health.
When to See Your Dentist
The best time to see your dentist in regards to plaque and tartar is before it has a chance to cause problems. For most people, this means getting an exam and cleaning every six months or as your dentist recommends.
Since it doesn’t take long for plaque and tartar to build up, regular brushing and flossing are essential. However, it’s virtually impossible to remove all traces of plaque in your mouth. Seeing your dentist for professional teeth cleanings can keep your teeth clean and remove plaque from hard-to-reach places.
Your Asheville dentist can also help you identify problematic areas in your smile or areas where you aren’t brushing or flossing properly. As a result, you can take better care of your teeth and gums and consistently reduce plaque buildup over time, resulting in a healthier smile.
If you are experiencing bleeding gums, chronic bad breath, gum swelling, tender gum tissue, or tooth sensitivity, it’s time to schedule an appointment with your dentist to see if plaque or tartar could be the culprit behind your symptoms.
Are You Protecting Your Smile?
Keeping dental plaque in check can help prevent tartar from forming on your smile and result in healthier teeth and gums. If it’s been a while since you’ve seen your dentist for a professional teeth cleaning, don’t wait to make an appointment.
Saunders DDS is your local dentist in Asheville helping you take the best possible care of your smile. Contact us for an appointment by calling (828) 277-6060 or by reaching out through our contact form to request an appointment.