The old adage that goes “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” really is true, especially when it comes to your teeth. Take excellent care of your teeth and gums, and you’re less likely to be forced to deal with the havoc wrought by plaque. In the interest of healthy, happy smiles everywhere, we are pleased to present a few tips and tricks that will help you keep your pearly whites white and pearly.
What is plaque?
When bacteria and sticky chemicals called mucopolysaccharides combine, they form a persistent film on the surface of teeth. When fairly fresh, this substance can be easily brushed and flossed away. If allowed to harden into tartar, it’s much more difficult to remove. If not removed, plaque hardens into tartar that can lead directly to painful, unsightly cavities. Tartar, also known as calculus, must be removed with special dental tools in a professional dental office. Brush and floss twice a day, and you may miss the less-than-fun adventure of the tooth and root scaling.
Tartar doesn’t take a long time to form. In fact, plaque can harden into stubborn, tooth-wrecking tartar in as little as one day. Although invisible at first, tartar will stain when exposed to tea, coffee, and highly pigmented foodstuffs. Once it forms, tartar must be scraped away with tools.
Cause of plaque and why it hurts your teeth and gums
Sticky and colorless, plaque occurs when food remains on teeth after eating. If not brushed away, starchy carbohydrates, sweets, and other foods leave residue where bacteria thrive. The bacteria contained in plaque produce a kind of acid that actually eats away at the enamel that protects your teeth. When this happens, tooth decay is the unhappy result.
Plaque can get below your gum line and wreak havoc on tooth roots, as well. When this happens, the bones that support teeth may break down, causing pain and eventual tooth loss, warns WebMD.
Unhealthy habits that facilitate plaque and tooth decay
The number one bad habit that leads to rotten teeth is forgetting to brush. Failure to floss comes in at number two. Overindulging in sweets can lead to plaque, especially when teeth are not cleaned immediately thereafter. Avoidance of dental visits is another reason people lose their teeth to sticky plaque, advises the British Dental Association.
How to prevent the perils of plaque
Take advantage of nature’s toothbrushes. Crunchy vegetables such as carrots, apples, and cucumbers go a long way toward prevention of plaque buildup. Raw foods, in general, are better for teeth than processed snacks. As a nice bonus, a diet brimming with fresh veggies and fruits may reduce the risk of cancer, obesity, heart disease, and other troubling health conditions.
If you cannot get to a toothbrush immediately after eating, stimulate saliva production by chewing a piece of sugar-free gum. Although not as effective as a complete brush-and-floss routine, saliva can neutralize mouth acids help to prevent plaque, tartar, and tooth decay, say the makers of Colgate toothpaste.
Many people successfully reduce plaque buildup by having a dental professional apply a sealant that protects the microscopic fissures on tooth surfaces. Mouthwash, especially of the antibacterial sort, offers an added layer of protection, but it’s not a substitute for regular brushing and tooth flossing. Ask your dentist or dental hygienist to recommend a mouthwash that’s right for you.
Visit a dentist at least once a year. Twice annually is even better. A dental professional has the expertise to spot oral problems and the skills and equipment to manage the same. If you think you can’t afford to see a dentist, help to find a dentist who takes payments is available.
Floss your teeth at least once daily. Brushing is good, but it doesn’t reach the spaces between your teeth. Flossing is good for gums, too, and goes a long way toward preventing periodontal disease as well as a gum condition called gingivitis.
Everyone is born without teeth. When taught to take care of teeth from the time they come in, kids learn healthy habits that can help them keep their teeth for a lifetime. If you have not been diligent in your own dental care, it’s not too late to enact healthier mouth habits. Make an appointment with a nearby dentist, get your teeth examined and cleaned, and buy a new toothbrush and a box of floss on the way home, and don’t forget to use them daily.