Ever wonder about what’s going on in your mouth, especially after you eat? Why does your teeth and tongue have that sticky, colorless film all over and what the heck is that? More importantly, is it good for you or not? That film is called plaque and is produced by the bacteria in our mouth who just love all the foods we eat, especially starchy or sugary foods. But if the bacteria produce it, is it good for us or should we care about it?
It turns out it’s one of the biggest things our dentist would really like us to take care of on a daily basis, especially after meals. Plaque is actually made up of acids produced by the bacteria and can attack our tooth enamel, causing problems down the road if not dealt with daily.
When plaque builds up in our mouths, the acids in the plaque start to break down the enamel and can lead to tooth decay. You see, tooth enamel is one of the hardest things in our bodies but when it’s gone, our bodies replace it, exposing our teeth to even greater problems.
So what can you do to help prevent losing the hardest protection in your body? To start with, brushing your teeth, especially after meals, can help remove any food material left behind that are attractive to the bacteria. By using a toothpaste that’s fluoridated you can help protect the enamel even more, since the fluoride helps strengthen our teeth.
Flossing also helps tackle plaque that might hide between your teeth where your brush can’t reach. While some people shy away from flossing, following some simple steps can help guide you to one of the best ways to fight plaque, as suggested by Colgate.
To receive maximum benefits from flossing, use the following proper technique:
- Starting with about 18 inches of floss, wind most of the floss around each middle finger, leaving an inch or two of floss to work with
- Holding the floss tautly between your thumbs and index fingers, slide it gently up-and-down between your teeth
- Gently curve the floss around the base of each tooth, making sure you go beneath the gum line. Never snap or force the floss, as this may cut or bruise delicate gum tissue
- Use clean sections of floss as you move from tooth to tooth
- To remove the floss, use the same back-and-forth motion to bring the floss up and away from the teeth
But even though brushing and flossing can help get rid of some of the problem, the bacteria will still linger around, waiting for that next meal of sugar or starches. That’s why it’s also important to rinse your mouth with an antibacterial mouthwash to help reduce the amount of bacteria in your mouth.
By preventing the buildup of bacteria in your mouth that cause plaque, you also help protect your gums and mouth from things like gingivitis and other inflammations. Those can lead to tooth decay and periodontitis.
So what are the best ways to reduce plaque in your mouth? Here are some things suggested by the American Dental Association:
- Brush your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste.
- Clean between teeth daily with floss or an interdental cleaner.
- Eat a balanced diet and limit between-meal snacks.
- Visit your dentist regularly for professional cleanings and oral exams.
- Ask your dentist about dental sealants, a protective plastic coating that can be applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth where decay often starts.
Above all, be sure to visit your dentist regularly for a checkup and cleaning. Regular visits can help catch plaque and tartar before they lead to greater problems.
If you haven’t set up a regularly scheduled visit with Dr. Silva, you can call our office at (512) 442-6728 to schedule an appointment. We look forward to seeing you and helping you maintain that beautiful smile.