Oral hygiene is something that is neglected by many assuming it doesn’t cause any serious health issues, but it is as dangerous as any other health condition. Poor maintenance of teeth can lead to tooth decay & gum diseases. Dental plaque is also known as Tooth plaque and it’s one such thing that requires serious attention. Tooth plaque is the layer of bacteria that gets settled on the surface of teeth or in between the teeth due to the accumulation of food particles. The presence of plaque can be felt when the tongue touches parts of the teeth, which can be felt more when you don’t brush your teeth for a long time.
learn more about Tooth plaque, its consequences, types, causes & preventive measures below:
Formation of Tooth plaque –
Plaque deposits are formed in the mouth when traces of carbohydrate-rich foods like cakes, candy, soft drinks & milk stay in the mouth for a long time. The bacteria present in the mouth uses these components to thrive & multiply, thereby increasing their population & settling on the teeth in the form of a semi-solid layer called ‘plaque’.
When the number of plaque layers on teeth increases, a chalky hard substance called ‘tartar’ is formed.
Consequences of plaque –
Tooth plaque has far reaching consequences. When plaque is ignored, it can aggravate & spread to the roots of the teeth beneath the gums & damage the bones supporting the teeth. This damage to the bones by plaque is called Periodontitis. It can also cause cavities & bad breath which is not a good sign of oral hygiene.
Types of tooth plaque –
Plaque films formed in the mouth are of 2 types: –
- Supragingival Biofilm –
This type of plaque develops over the gums.
- Subgingival Biofilm –
This type of plaque is more dangerous & occurs below the gums.
Causes of plaque –
- Not brushing teeth properly.
- Eating sugary foods like cakes, soft drinks, chocolates, sodas & dry foods like chips & cereal that get stuck in between & to the teeth & cannot be easily dislocated by saliva. They form a mass of plaque & slowly erode the teeth with time.
- Saliva plays a critical role in fighting tooth decay. It does so by washing away the food particles in between the teeth. Lack of sufficient saliva makes the mouth go dry thereby increasing the chances of plaque.
- Fluoride helps in fighting tooth decay. Low exposure of teeth to fluoride also causes tooth decay. This is why in developed countries; the drinking water supply is infused with fluoride to protect the teeth from decay.
Preventive measures –
Plaque can be prevented by taking the following measures: –
- Brush your teeth twice a day using a brush with soft bristles. Cover all parts of the teeth, in & out. Hard bristles can wear down teeth.
- Floss in between the teeth to remove the stuck food particles. Just rinsing the mouth doesn’t help in clearing out the bacteria.
- Visit your dentist twice a year. A dentist uses 2 methods to detect plaque- 1) Visually, 2) by applying a disclosing gel or disclosing tablet. Disclosing gels are like a litmus test. They change colour when exposed to plaque. And disclosing tablets require to be chewed for a certain amount of time before spitting them out. The chewed piece of tablet would reveal the presence, & also the extent of plaque.
- You can use anti-bacterial mouthwash to fight bacteria in the mouth.
- Follow a healthy diet. Eat natural foods, especially vegetables every day (vegetables help saliva in neutralizing the acids that cause plaque). Avoid sugary & oily foods.
- You can also use a dental sealant. A dental sealant is a plastic coating painted on the surface of teeth to protect them from decay. Consult your dentist before going ahead with it.
NOTE: Do not brush your teeth too hard & not for more than 2-3 minutes, this will cause the enamel on teeth to fade away.
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