Advantages and disadvantages of dental plaque

digital illustration of dental plaque

Most dental patients only talk about the topic of dental plaque with their dentists. What they might not realize is that dental plaque has positive qualities, as well as downsides. If you have never considered the role that dental plaque plays in keeping teeth healthy, read on to discover some interesting facts that most individuals do not learn growing up.

The Good Side of Dental Plaque

Did you know that dental plaque has a benefit to your health? This comes as a surprise to many individuals who have always assumed that plaque needs to be removed immediately. While this substance should not stay on your teeth for a long time, it does have a purpose.

Plaque is a biofilm

Plaque is a sticky biofilm, a film that builds up on tooth surfaces made up of living organisms. As you might guess from former visits to the dentist, plaque develops naturally on the surface of your teeth. Whenever you eat or drink something other than water or clear, sugarless liquids, bacteria begins to build up on your teeth. This bacteria is the building blocks of what will become plaque.

What could be the advantage of having this substance on your teeth? As long as the plaque is removed twice daily with brushing and flossing, it helps build the human immune system. Having a healthy immune system is essential because it allows patients to fight off diseases. When plaque is only on the teeth for short periods, it becomes part of the normal balance of the mouth. In fact, it can be expected in all mouths.

Plaque a problem when allowed to build up

Plaque only becomes a problem when it is allowed to build up without removal. After about two days, plaque begins to harden around the teeth into tartar or calculus. A plaque and calculus mix will begin to produce acids. This process can lead to a higher risk of tooth decay and gum disease. The biofilm is soft enough to be scratched off with your fingernail at first. After 10 days, it turns into tartar, or dental calculus, which is hard as a rock and difficult to remove. Daily brushing and flossing remove a lot of plaque, but some may remain at the gum line and between teeth. At this point, plaque moves from being a normal, healthy occurrence to a concern.

Not-So-Good Aspects of Dental Plaque

Although plaque can help the immune system, it can also damage your teeth and make your breath smell terrible. Additionally, it can look unappealing and cause patients to lose confidence in their appearance.  Individuals with high levels of dental plaque and tartar have dark areas around the base of their teeth where the teeth meet the gums.

Dr. Fondriest and our team can educate you about preventing halitosis (bad breath), tooth decay, and gum disease associated with plaque buildup. Without intervention in the form of six-month dental cleanings at your dentist’s office or other treatments, you risk serious problems related to plaque and tartar build-up.

Ways to Manage the Build-Up of Dental Plaque

You do not have to immediately brush and floss after every meal or snack to stop plaque from becoming a significant issue. However, you do need to stay on top of plaque by removing biofilm regularly. Want to keep dental plaque from building up and wreaking havoc on your teeth? Try these proven ways to lower your incidence of plaque and tartar:

Visit your dentist at least twice a year for annual cleanings

These cleanings are necessary even if you brush and floss diligently. Only dental professionals have the training and tools to safely remove tartar from your teeth. If you try to remove it at home, you could cause damage to your teeth or gums.

Use proper teeth cleaning techniques

Good oral hygiene is important. The bacteria in plaque will harden into tartar if not removed regularly. Many patients who have cleaned their teeth for years discover that they might not be using appropriate implements or techniques. During your next appointment with us, ask about proper teeth cleaning procedures. That way, you will not miss spots when you brush your teeth. Be sure to learn how to handle dental floss the right way, too. Dental plaque can easily grow and develop between the teeth and gums, increasing your chances of developing periodontal disease.

Avoid snacks full of starches and sugars, and limit the number of snacks you eat daily

The rest of your body will benefit from your scaling back on unhealthy foods, too. Not sure if a snack or ingredient contains sugars or starches? Begin to read food labels. When in doubt, foods in their most natural forms are typically better for you. A good example is an apple versus sugar-added applesauce.

Use a fluoride based toothpaste to brush with twice a day

Fluoride is a great dental plaque fighter. Even if your water is fluoridated and you drink tap water all day, you still need a fluoride-based toothpaste. If you switch your toothpaste brand, always pick one with fluoride. Many on the market are unfluoridated, especially in the natural foods section of your grocery.

Eat a balanced diet

Want a reason to add healthier foods such as crunchy vegetables and nuts back into your menu? The more well-rounded your diet, the less likely you will be to have problems with heavy plaque build-up. Plus, you may find that you feel better and more energized in general.

Don’t smoke or use tobacco products

It goes without saying that use of tobacco products has been linked to plenty of health problems. Dentists regularly warn their patients to reduce their smoking or kick the habit altogether. Smoking not only increases your likelihood of developing tartar, but also for developing gum disease.

Floss your teeth every day or use an interdental cleaner

Still having trouble using dental floss, even after getting a tutorial at your dentist? Worried that you are not getting the flossing action your teeth and gums deserve? Interdental cleaners and waterpiks can be the answer. Not only are they affordable, but they work well to remove plaque biofilm effectively and efficiently. Plus, they make your mouth feel clean.

Learn more about the positives and negatives of dental plaque

If you are looking for an experienced cosmetic and restorative dentist in the Lake Forest or North Chicago area, at 847-234-0517 to schedule a complimentary cosmetic consultation. Dr. Fondriest and the rest of our team will address your questions and educate you on the best ways to clean your teeth at home.