What is plaque and why should you care? It’s one of the words that gets bandied about on TV adverts for toothpaste, mouthwash and etcetera but can you actually define it? Most of us have a vague sense that it’s a negative thing but struggle to offer a more specific definition. Some will say ‘the white stuff on your teeth’ but actually that’s incorrect. Plaque itself is colourless – but easily stained. It is a film of food particles and bacteria which constantly forms on your teeth. It is made by the germs and bacteria which feed off energy from starch and sugar found in food particles. It’s also incredibly sticky and can invariably be hard to thoroughly clean away.
So what do you need to know about it? The key thing is that if not removed daily, it can begin to harden within 48 hours. There comes a point where brushing alone will not rid your teeth of it and a visit to the oral hygienist is required. Plaque turns into tartar after about a week – a substance which has been compared to cement. This can lay the foundations for cavities because the bacteria in the tartar will release acids which will erode the tooth enamel.
Knowing this may provide the impetus for ridding your teeth of plaque but next you need to know how to do this. The most important thing you can do is make sure to brush and floss (or use interdental brushes) your teeth thoroughly twice a day. It is worthwhile combining this with use of a mouthwash once a day. Disclosing tablets are also a useful tool for detecting plaque. Once you’ve brushed and flossed, use a tablet to see if you’ve missed any spots and if you have, you can now brush those spots until the plaque has hopefully gone. Visiting the dentist every six months will ensure that they have the chance to highlight any problem areas to you. Booking an appointment with an oral hygienist will also provide the opportunity for a really thorough clean where any tartar can be removed.