What is Dental Plaque?

dental plaque

Look at the box of any toothbrush or toothpaste and you will see the words “helps remove plaque”. At first glance, this may seem like a marketing feature designed to get you to purchase that toothbrush or toothpaste, but it is actually a valuable feature that helps you improve your overall oral health.

Why is it so important that you remove dental plaque? To answer that question, you need understand exactly what dental plaque is and what problems could occur if it is left untreated.

What is Dental Plaque?

You know how sometimes you run your tongue over your teeth and it feels like there is a thin layer of film coating your teeth? That is dental plaque.

Dental plaque is an extremely soft deposit that builds up on the surface of your teeth. While the clear film deposit may look harmless, it contains bacteria, sugars, and acid that can cause gum disease and tooth decay.

How Does Dental Plaque Cause Cavities?

The acids found in dental plaque are responsible for cavities forming. Immediately after you eat, the acids in plaque start to attack the surface of your teeth. Over time and after repeated acid attacks, the enamel that sounds like your teeth will start to break down and soften. This attracts bacteria to the softened enamel and eventually leads to cavities.

What Happens if Plaque isn’t Properly Removed?

Dental plaque is extremely easy to remove with proper and brushing. However, if you don’t brush and floss properly the soft dental plaque hardens and turns into calculus. Calculus is hardened plaque that contains all the harmful bacteria, acid, and sugars. Unlike plaque, calculus cannot be removed just by brushing and flossing. A dental professional will have to use specialized dental tools to remove it during a cleaning.

Things You Can Do to Prevent Dental Plaque from Harming Your Teeth

The best, and only, way to keep dental plaque is to practice good oral hygiene. Some ways to establish good oral hygiene that will prevent dental plaque from damaging your teeth or hardening into calculus include:

  • Brushing after every meal or after snacking
  • Brush at least twice a day if you are unable to brush after every meal or snacks
  • Floss daily
  • Learn proper flossing techniques so you are properly removing the plaque from between your teeth and not just running the floss up and down
  • Change out your toothbrush every three to four months
  • Schedule regular cleanings with your dentist approximately every three to six months  

How a Professional Cleaning from Your Dentist Helps Prevent Plaque from Forming

Even if you brush and floss on a regular basis, you will still need to have a professional dental cleaning every three to six months. Dental hygienists, the ones who usually perform the cleaning, will use specialized tools to loosen and remove the tartar that has built up around your teeth.

During your professional dental cleaning, expect the following things to happen:

  • An oral exam will be performed. Your dental hygienist will conduct a brief examination of your mouth to see if there are any signs of gum inflammation, extreme tartar build up, or cavities. A small mirror will be used to help the dental hygienist see the backs of your teeth.
  • Plaque is removed with a scaler. A scaler is a tool that will scrape the tarter from around the gum line and in between your teeth. A slight scraping and scratching sound can be heard during this part of the cleaning.
  • Professional dental cleaning. After the plaque has been removed with a scraper, a high powered electric brush is used to clean your teeth and remove any tartar that is left around your teeth. During the cleaning a gritty toothpaste is used which allows the hygienist to deep clean your teeth and remove any stains.
  • Flossing. The hygienist will floss your teeth.
  • Fluoride treatment. Fluoride treatments may be administered to help strengthen and protect your teeth for several months.

Is it time for a professional dental cleaning? If so, the professional and skilled hygienists at Bonham Dental Arts can help you. Call Bonham Dental Arts today to schedule an appointment for a routine dental cleaning and examination.