How plaque impacts oral health

You know that brushing and flossing twice daily are the recommended ways to manage plaque buildup, but have you wondered how plaque starts and how long it takes before it affects you? Here we look at how plaque starts and how long it takes to progress from manageable to worse.

In as little as 48 hours, if plaque is not removed, it starts to harden and calcify into tartar, and is nearly impossible to remove with just a toothbrush and floss

How does plaque start?

The quick answer is that plaque is a film made up of bacteria and sugar caused by a reaction that occurs during the processes of breaking down food. After you eat, the bacteria in your mouth attacks the leftover sugar and secretes an acid, which becomes a sticky and colorless substance that buildups on your teeth. It’s this sticky plaque that leads to yellow teeth, bad breath, tooth decay, destruction of enamel and cavities.

How plaque progresses

In as little as 48 hours, if plaque is not removed, it starts to harden and calcify into tartar, and is nearly impossible to remove with just a toothbrush and floss. Falling short on brushing, not flossing regularly, or skipping dental cleanings will certainly compound the issue.

As tartar continues to build up, more plaque and remnants of food continue to stick to your teeth and gums, which can lead to the inflammation, called gingivitis, which can ultimately progress to serious gum disease, or periodontitis. When this happens, the gum tissue starts to pull away from the teeth, allowing the bacteria to destroy the supportive bone underneath, which can result in tooth loss.

The long-term impact of plaque

In addition to some serious dental issues, there have been studies that demonstrate a link between periodontal disease and several other problems, including heart disease, diabetes, dementia, rheumatoid arthritis and premature births. While scientists have not established the definitive reason, they have theorized that oral bacteria gets into the bloodstream and affects major organs, and that the periodontal inflammation may escalate inflammation in the entire body, an underlying cause of many diseases.

Preventing plaque

Brushing your teeth within hours of eating is ideal, as that’s when the plaque is softest and easiest to remove. Barring that, brushing twice a day and flossing daily is a good defense against plaque. Don’t floss? Or floss only before your dentist appointment? Brushing only removes 40% of plaque. FLOSS.

You can also get chewable tablets that stain your mouth so you can see the spots you’re missing with your brush. Visit your dentist twice a year, as they will perform deep cleans and remove hard-to-reach tartar that inevitably lies beneath the gum line. Eat a diet high in vegetables and limit starchy carbs and of course, sugar.

Once the plaque become tartar, you cannot remove it yourself, regardless of what a google search tells you. It takes the proper tools, and the proper vision line and angle to remove such build up. Do not try to use any dental tools yourself; if they are sharp enough to remove tartar and calculus, you can risk seriously damaging your tooth enamel.

Posted In: Oral & Dental Health Tips