Plaque is a sticky, often colorless film of bacteria that builds up on the teeth. The bacteria feeds on starchy foods you eat and the plaque produces acids that damage the tooth enamel, cause cavities and form a hard substance called tarter. These can further lead to tooth decay and gum disease, known as periodontal disease. Severe gum disease can cause tooth and bone loss.
Fighting plaque is simple:
- Brush your teeth twice daily with a soft toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste to remove food particles and plaque from the surface of your teeth. Also, brush the the surface of your tongue to eliminate the build-up of bacteria that cause bad breath.
- Floss daily or use an interdental cleaner to remove plaque between teeth where a toothbrush cannot reach. Make sure you also clean under the gum line.
- Eat a balanced diet and limit snacking between meals. If you need a snack, choose healthy foods like vegetables, fruit, yogurt or cheese.
- Visit your dentist regularly. Maintain a healthy mouth with professional cleanings and oral exams every six months.
- Ask about dental sealants. Your dentist or hygienist can apply a protective plastic coating to surfaces of your teeth that are most vulnerable to decay.
- Wear mouth protection during contact sports or extreme sports. Mouthguards can help keep you from breaking or losing teeth as a result of high impact.
Brushing Your Teeth the Right Way
- Position your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to your gums.
- Gently brush in a circular motion.
- Brush outer, inner and chewing surfaces of each tooth.
- Use the tip of the brush for inner surfaces of front teeth.
Replace your toothbrush every three or four months. Replace children’s toothbrushes more frequently if they wear out quickly.
Flossing the Right Way
- Wind 18 inches of floss around the middle finger of both hands, mostly on one finger. As the floss is used, unwind a clean section from one finger and wind the used section around the other finger.
- Using your thumbs and forefingers, guide the floss between your teeth.
- Gently work the floss between two teeth. Curve the floss into a C-shape against each tooth and clean under the gum line.
- Slide the floss up and down the sides of the teeth. Repeat the process for each tooth.
If you have difficulty using dental floss, try other types of cleaners like interdental brushes or picks. Ask your dentist about how to use them properly.