Most of us know that it is important to remember to brush our teeth twice a day. But do you remember exactly why it is crucial to develop this healthy oral habit? Regular brushing is proven to prevent tooth decay and gum disease, and it does this by preventing the accumulation of plaque on the teeth.
The importance of preventing plaque
Plaque is a clear, sticky film that constantly forms on the enamel of our teeth. It is made up of the leftover food particles and saliva that mix in our mouths and contain millions of bacteria. You can’t often see plaque, but you can probably feel it if you run your tongue over your teeth and the texture will be slippery or furry. When we eat, the bacteria that live in plaque will use the sugars in our food to produce acids that can slowly and methodically destroy the enamel of our teeth, exposing the more sensitive inner layers. This is decay. If plaque is allowed to build-up on the teeth, it can harden and become a substance known as tartar. This is impossible to remove with a toothbrush and your dentist will need to use special tools to eliminate these yellowish-brown deposits.
Plaque build-up also increases your risk of developing gum disease. This occurs when plaque spreads below the gum line and the bacteria cause the soft tissue to become inflamed, swollen, and sore. The early signs of gum disease are usually mild, but the condition is progressive and left without treatment, your gums could start to recede, you could experience painful infections and eventually, the tooth could die and fall out or need extraction. Research has also found that patients who are diagnosed with chronic health conditions are also more likely to suffer from moderate to severe gum disease as a result of the bacteria entering the bloodstream and passing around to other organs within the body. Some of the health conditions that you could be at greater risk of developing if you have gum disease include diabetes, kidney disease, high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke.
So, what can you do to prevent plaque and keep your teeth safe and healthy for as long as possible? Here are our top tips.
Brush your teeth twice each day
It may sound obvious, but a surprising number of people fail to brush their teeth twice each day for the recommended two minutes each time. This really is the most successful way of removing plaque before it has a chance to cause significant damage to your teeth and gums. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush – electric ones are generally more effective as they move more rapidly – and use a fluoride toothpaste to protect your teeth from decay.
Don’t skip flossing
When was the last time you flossed your teeth? Many of us are guilty of brushing our teeth but skipping over regular flossing because it can be time-consuming or fiddly. Nevertheless, flossing is a vital element of any robust dental hygiene routine as it ensures the removal of plaque from the tiny crevices between the teeth where the bristles of your toothbrush might not reach. If you can’t get the hang of regular floss, consider an interdental cleaner or even a water flosser to simplify the task for you.
Choose an antibacterial mouthwash
Finish your oral hygiene routine with mouthwash every time and be sure to choose an antibacterial variety. This will cut down the number of bacteria in your mouth, making it harder for them to cause decay and gum disease and ensuring your smile stays healthier for longer.
Drink water with your meals
Water is just as good for your teeth as it is for the rest of your body as it doesn’t contain any harmful sugars. Dentists also recommend that you drink water with your meals as it helps to wash away food particles and bacteria, reducing the ability of plaque to develop and preventing decay and gum disease from occurring.
Choose your snacks wisely
Snacking is bad news for your teeth. This is because every time you snack on a sugary snack, the bacteria in your mouth will combine with the sugars to produce plaque and plaque acids, putting your smile at risk of decay and disease. We are also less likely to brush our teeth directly after a snack, which means that there will be a longer period of time between eating and removing the plaque thorough cleaning.
Ask your dentist about sealants
Dental sealants are thin, plastic coatings that are painted onto your teeth in order to protect the chewing surfaces from cavities and decay. They can be applied to most patients, so it is worth speaking to your dentist to see if they feel that you would benefit from this treatment.
If you’d like more advice on the best way to prevent plaque build-up on teeth, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with our expert dental team.