There is no greater enemy to a healthy smile than plaque in the mouth. That is mostly because of how subtly this seemingly tiny issue can become a MAJOR problem. It begins innocently enough, with you neglecting your oral-health routine: you forget to brush for a few days, miss the occasional professional cleaning, run out of mouthwash, etc.
You don’t think anything of it, because you barely notice the slimy film enveloping your teeth … But before you can say “cavity creeps”, you have developed serious periodontal diseases. Now you have to undergo painful (and expensive) dental procedures in order to clean up the mess. The most frustrating aspect of the situation is that all of this could have been prevented with regular at-home dental care. It is with this thought in mind, that we offer you a few simple (and some not-so-simple) ways you can break-up plaque in your mouth from the comfort of your home.
Firstly, what is plaque? According to Dr. Phillip D. Marsh, “Dental plaque is a microbial biofilm, a community of microorganisms found on a tooth surface. Biofilms are highly diverse microbial communities.” Which is geek-speak for “that slimy surface that develops around your teeth and gums practically over-night.” These microbial communities dissolve the teeth and gums causing: cavities, periodontitis, gingivitis, bad breath, as well as pain and inflammation. Basically, plaque is responsible for the most common dental woes. The fact plaque is nearly invisible further exacerbates these issues, so detection is a big concern.
One method people are now using to detect (and therefore treat) plaque is by using a staining element referred to as “disclosing tablets”. Once chewed, these tablets will temporarily stain parts of your teeth that are infected with plaque a green or red color. So, if you are unsure if you are battling a plaque issue, purchase some disclosing tablets from your local drugstore or grocery and follow the instructions.
That brings us, finally, to treating you plaque build-up at home. Here is how to break-up the disease causing bacteria in your mouth:
- Brush: You should be brushing your teeth once or twice a day using toothpaste recommended by your dentist; such as Closys. The type (or brand) of toothbrush you use does not matter much, so long as you replace it every three months, or whenever the bristles begin to fray.
- BRUSH: The importance of regular brushing cannot be understated. But make sure to scrub gently, and to brush the tongue as well as the roof of the mouth!
- Mouth Wash: Incorporating a high-grade mouth wash can work wonders for the health of your teeth. It will also help to flush the bacteria out of the places that you cannot reach through regular brushing.
- Flossing: The efficacy of flossing has recently been under heavy scrutiny. However, that has not stopped it from being the second most highly recommended practice by dentists due to its ability to clear “hard to reach” spaces in the mouth. Until there is hard evidence that proves flossing is not effective, we’re going to follow our doctors’ advice and continue to use this time-honored tool.
- Diet: Avoid sugary and starchy foods. Sugar and starch are used by the plaque-causing bacteria in your mouth as food. If you keep feeding the bacteria, they will continue to grow; so denying them these building-blocks will work wonders for your oral health. If you are looking for a treat, try eating apples, melons, oranges, or anything with high levels of vitamin C. These snacks should satisfy your sweet tooth, they have also proven to help the general health of your teeth and gums.
- Nanoparticle Hydrogen Peroxide: This one is admittedly kind of a stretch because the science is so new … But, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have discovered that “[Combining] pH-sensitive, enzyme-like, iron-containing nanoparticles with the natural antiseptic properties of hydrogen peroxide … increases efficacy [of regular cleaning] over 5,000 fold.” It is uncertain when products utilizing this method will become available to consumers, but scientists seem to be very excited on how well it treats plaque.
By using some, or all, of the methods above you should be able to take care of plaque build-up well before it becomes a true medical issue. It is also always important to keep up with your regular cleanings at your dentist’s office. So, good luck and stay smiling!