Preventing Tooth Plaque Guide

June 5, 2020

Reviewed and approved by Dr. Matt Parker, D.M.D and Dr. Justin Ewell, D.M.D.

When you eat, the saliva, fluids, and food create an environment that can breed bacteria growth in your mouth. Plaque is a sticky, bacterial film that clings to your tooth enamel (outer layer of the tooth). If left untreated, this film can cause gum disease and other health complications.

The qualified dentists at AZ Family Dental each have years of schooling and experience dealing with plaque firsthand. You can use their expertise, compiled in this guide, to improve your mouth health before your next appointment.

What Causes Plaque to Build Up?

The saliva in your mouth starts to break down simple sugars from your food before you swallow. When you eat foods high in carbohydrates, they react with bacteria in your mouth to begin the formation of plaque on your teeth and inner cheeks. When you brush your teeth, you can remove some of this plaque.

Tooth plaque can build up if you don’t brush your teeth at least twice daily. In a matter of hours, this buildup can result in tartar, a hard, pale yellow substance that causes gum diseases like gingivitis and cavities. Tartar breaks down the enamel on your teeth and causes tooth decay. You should prevent the buildup of plaque before it turns into tartar, which can only be removed by the dentist.

How to Prevent Plaque Buildup

You may detect plaque buildup if you feel a transparent, sticky film on your teeth. The following are some preventive steps you can take to reduce bacteria in your mouth and manage this buildup:

  • Think about the food and drinks you consume: Plaque feeds on starches from acidic and sugary foods, such as soda and potato chips. While you don’t have to eliminate sugar and acids from your diet, you should be careful about what you eat and drink. Drinking soda occasionally is acceptable, but having a can with every meal could erode your teeth. Instead, drink water and eat a balance of healthy proteins and starches. The American Dental Hygienists’ Association recommends eating foods rich in calcium and vitamin D to maintain healthy, clean teeth.
  • Brush your teeth at least twice a day: When you brush your teeth for two minutes twice a day, you can remove plaque from your mouth. Use anti-plaque toothpaste with fluoride and an electric toothbrush that can reach every angle in your mouth. You should change out your brush or the head of your electric brush every three months, or when you start to notice the bristles fraying.
  • Floss at least once a day: Add flossing to your routine to remove the food that may be stuck between your teeth. You should floss before you brush so the food between your teeth doesn’t spread plaque to the rest of your mouth. If you haven’t flossed in a while, you might bleed at first, but the bleeding will stop after you’ve made it a routine. Use string floss or a water flosser to clean out the gaps between the front and rear of your teeth. If you’re not sure how to floss properly, the dentist can answer any questions you may have.
  • Use mouthwash as suggested: If you want to eliminate bad breath caused by bacteria, rinse your mouth with mouthwash. The dentist can recommend a brand to help you take care of your teeth. Follow the instructions on the bottle for optimal protection against tooth plaque buildup.
  • Drink water with fluoride: Fluoride is the active ingredient in toothpaste that guards against the buildup of plaque. Some Arizona cities add fluoride to their water supply to support healthy teeth. Find out if your local water supply contains fluoride, and drink a healthy amount of water each day.
  • Keep up with your dental appointments: While brushing your teeth at home is essential, you should also schedule regular appointments with the dentist. At the office, the dentist can perform a dental cleaning to remove the bacteria from your teeth and gumline. They also have mirrors that help them spot plaque in hard-to-reach places. Your dentist can give you personalized recommendations for the best ways to take care of your teeth and answer any questions you may have.
  • Correct issues with your teeth: If you have crooked teeth, you have a higher chance of getting food stuck in them. They may also be more difficult to brush. To mitigate these risks, you can seek corrective solutions, like braces or invisible aligners. Dental sealants can also prevent up to 80% of cavities for two years and 50% for four years. During your next visit, ask the dentist about protecting your teeth with dental sealants.

How to Treat Plaque Buildup

Plaque buildup is common and should be addressed promptly to prevent you from developing more severe issues from poor oral hygiene. If you notice a sticky film on your teeth, you can get rid of the bacteria in your mouth with these practices:

  • Eat fresh fruits and vegetables: Saliva produced when chewing can wash away the bacteria in your mouth. Eat crunchy vegetables, like celery or carrots, to treat plaque buildup. You can also chew on a piece of sugar-free or mint gum for the same effect.
  • Floss your teeth: Flossing twice a day can remove pieces of food stuck between your teeth. Bacteria buildup can cause gum disease and tooth decay, but dental floss allows you to reach and clean areas that are inaccessible to toothbrushes.
  • Brush your teeth: Dentists have found that toothpaste with baking soda is effective in tooth plaque removal. Your dentist may recommend a special, plaque-fighting toothpaste if you experience a lot of plaque buildup. Make sure you brush your teeth at a 45-degree angle from the gum line and use your toothbrush to clean your tongue.
  • Rinse out your mouth: You should use mouthwash after each time you brush your teeth to maintain fresh breath. Your dentist may recommend a mouthwash with active ingredients that fight against plaque if necessary.
  • Schedule a dental cleaning: While you can maintain your oral health at home by brushing and flossing, the dentist can remove tartar buildup and diagnose any gum disease or tooth decay.

Make an Appointment With AZ Family Dental

To maintain and prevent any plaque and tartar buildup, schedule a dental cleaning with the dentists at AZ Family Dental. If this is your first time visiting our practice, we’ll have an initial consultation with you before we schedule a cleaning. The dentists on our team are fully qualified to answer all of your questions, and they strive to treat you like family. Contact us today to schedule an appointment with our professional staff in the Glendale, Arizona area.

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