Have a go at running your tongue along the front of your teeth. Can you feel a slimy coating that makes your teeth feel a bit fuzzy? This is plaque and it is a type of biofilm. It can cause tooth decay and periodontal disease. Biofilms form when bacteria stick to surfaces (your teeth) in some form of watery environment (your mouth) and begin to excrete a slimy, glue-like substance. Biofilms usually consist of many species of bacteria. Dental plaque is a special type of yellowish-brown biofilm which builds up on the teeth. It is basically a community of decay-causing bacteria and their uncontrolled accumulation can cause you a whole lot of problems including cavities, gum disease, gingivitis and periodontitis.
The good news is that you can do something about it. Follow our 5 simple steps to rid your mouth of plaque and prevent that painful tooth decay and gum disease.
1. Brushing your teeth
Your first line of defence against plaque is your own humble toothbrush and some effort. To prevent plaque accumulation, you will need to brush your teeth at least twice a day for 2 minutes with fluoride toothpaste and soft bristles, paying special attention to the tooth surfaces and tongue. The bristles on your toothbrush should be short and vertical but should not put too much pressure on you while you brush your teeth. If the bristles are too stiff they will cause abrasions on the delicate lining of the gums and could lead to mouth ulcers.
When you have finished brushing make sure that you rinse your toothbrush well under running water and shake it off before you let it dry completely. Experts are generally of the opinion that it doesn’t matter if you use a manual or electronic toothbrush as long as you use proper tooth brushing techniques. Change your toothbrush regularly.
2. Dental floss
Your dentist has probably already recommended that you should be flossing your teeth every day but perhaps you thought it was just a waste of time. It is not! Dental floss is a fantastic plaque remover. Plaque hides between teeth and even the most meticulous tooth brusher can’t get at all of it with just a toothbrush. You have to use floss! Experts recommend using floss at least once a day. Use around 45 centimetres of floss wrapped around your index fingers in order to clean all of your teeth. Ask you dental hygienist for more advice on flossing techniques.
There is another important step in your daily fight against plaque – the antibacterial mouth rinse. Plaque is made up of bacteria and a mouthwash will get to the places that even floss can’t reach! After brushing and flossing, a good mouthwash will disinfect your mouth. Some over-the-counter mouth washes contain special plaque fighters, like fluoride, chlorhexidine gluconate, zinc citrate, and triclosan, but prescription mouthwashes can be much stronger. However, you must bear in mind that many mouthwashes have a high alcohol content that are not suitable for children. You could always try a natural alternative such as mint oil, tea tree oil or grapefruit seed extract.
4. A proper diet
Some foods are, without question, bad for your health. Carbonated drinks, saturated fats and many additives aren’t good for your health. Similarly, there are foods that are not good for your dental health. Dark coloured fruit, for example, can increase plaque and cause tooth staining because of their high sugar and acid content. However, natural sugar is much less harmful than refined sugar. Vegetables are good for dental health because they are low in sugar and acids and don’t cause plaque and staining. When you eat a crunchy vegetable, the chewing motion will brush your teeth and produce saliva which is a natural plaque remover.
5. See your dentist twice a year
In order to get the best out of brushing your teeth, and using dental floss and mouth wash, you need to see your dentist twice a year. Besides giving you a deep cleanse, your dentist will be able to spot any potential problems such as gingivitis, cavities, and gum diseases. If you are a person that is particularly susceptible to plaque attacks, your dentist can also apply a fine layer of sealant to the chewing surfaces of your teeth.