The Problem With Plaque

Healthy Teeth and Gums

Plaque. Since you were a kid, you’ve been hearing that this pesky bacteria is the archnemesis of healthy teeth. Plaque is a sticky mix of lingering food particles, bacteria, and bacterial secretions. An adhesive chemical referred to as mucopolysaccharides makes plaque so effective at sticking to your teeth, and creates a biofilm where the bacteria can thrive in the mouth. Initially, this layer of biofilm is easy to remove from your teeth, but it quickly hardens into a more resistant form of plaque called tartar if not brushed away. Over time, tartar builds up along the gum line where it can cause tooth decay and gum disease to develop.

Fortunately, brushing and flossing regularly can remove plaque from your teeth before it transforms into tartar, and will help maintain your oral health. However, despite the relative ease associated with the removal of plaque, it’s easy to find yourself engaging in a number of bad habits that allow plaque to build up and thrive in your mouth. To help keep your teeth and gums healthy and happy, here are a few of the most plaque-building bad habits you will want to avoid.

Failing to Brush

Even if no one else notices if you occasionally forget to brush, the health of your teeth certainly takes notice. The longer plaque is allowed to remain on your teeth, the more of the sticky substance builds up. Whenever you consume foods or drinks that contain sugar, plaque secretes substances that slowly erode away your tooth enamel. Obviously, the more plaque on your teeth, the more damage it can cause when you eat.

The best way to ensure you don’t miss brushing is to establish a consistent oral hygiene routine that includes brushing at least once in the morning and once again before bed. When you do brush, make sure you spend at least two minutes cleaning your teeth, as that is the amount of time the American Dental Association recommends patients spend brushing during each session.

Floss, Floss, Floss

According to studies conducted by the ADA, less than half of all Americans floss daily. Considering that many dentists consider flossing the most important oral health habit a person can perform, failing to floss can cause some serious problems to the health of your teeth.

Despite what you might think, the purpose of flossing isn’t just to remove food particles that have remained trapped between your teeth. The primary benefit of flossing is to remove plaque deposits that have formed between your teeth. If you don’t think that much plaque could possibly buildup between your teeth, consider that the most common place in the mouth for cavities to form is actually between your teeth. By just spending two minutes a day flossing, you can greatly reduce your risk of tooth decay and gum disease.

Failing to Rinse

If your mouth were a road map it would be covered with an assorted number of curves, bumps, humps, and hills. Because of this uneven nature, your mouth contains many hard to reach places that a toothbrush can easily miss. To ensure you remove plaque wherever it may hide, you should add the use of an antibacterial oral rinse or mouthwash to your nightly hygiene routine.

Skipping the Dentist

To many, a trip to the dentist ranks just behind trips to the DMV or visiting the in-laws on the list of most appealing ways to spend the day. If you hate the idea of visiting the dentist, you’re not alone. Studies from the ADA have shown that up to 40 percent of the U.S. population suffers from some type of dental anxiety, with 20 percent of the country avoiding the dentist altogether due to their phobia.

However, to enjoy the best possible oral health, you need to schedule regular visits to dentist’s office. Regular checkups and cleanings provide your dentist with the opportunity to look for the early signs of tooth decay and gum disease, while also performing routine oral cancer screenings.

If you dislike visiting the dentist, then a recent study offers good news. Researchers at the University of Michigan have just released the findings of a study that suggests individuals without severe dental problems only need to visit the dentist once a year, instead of the often recommended biannual visits. So be sure to follows the tips listed above.

Author John Nickelbottom is a freelance health and science writer.

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