Plaque and tartar are the enemies of a bright, healthy smile. If you give an inch, they’ll take a mile.
Luckily, you can control whether or not plaque and tartar have the chance to accumulate in your mouth. Taking steps now to prevent plaque and tartar is the most powerful way to keep your mouth healthy. But if they manage to get the best of you, don’t wait to use the following tricks to eliminate plaque and tartar from your smile.
What are Plaque and Tartar?
Plaque and tartar are the “gateways” into cavities, decay, gum disease, and even worse complications like tooth loss and bone degeneration.
In other words, they are not good news!
Plaque is a sticky layer of bacteria that builds up on and between your teeth. You can’t always see it, but it’s there. Plaque most commonly develops after you eat or drink something containing carbohydrates. The sugar, acid, and bacteria in those foods and drinks combine with saliva to form sticky plaque.
If plaque isn’t brushed and flossed out of the mouth, it hardens into tartar. Hard tartar crystals create that unsightly yellow and brown sheen on your teeth. Unfortunately, tartar is much harder to remove with a toothbrush and floss. Only a dentist has the specialized tools to scrape it away.
What Happens When Plaque and Tartar Grow?
Plaque’s acidic base slowly but surely eats away at your tooth enamel. It might not seem obvious at first. But the symptoms become clear over time.
Plaque produces toxins that irritate and inflame the gums. When too much plaque forms in your mouth, the first stage of gum disease develops. This is known as gingivitis. It is defined by the following symptoms:
- Bright red gums
- Tender, painful gums
- Bleeding from the gums, especially when brushing and flossing
- Chronic bad breath
- Increased tooth sensitivity
- Tooth decay and cavities
Once plaque changes into tartar, you’re at risk of even more severe consequences. Tartar can develop above and below the gum line. This means it doesn’t just cause cavities; it can harm jaw bone and infect gum tissue as well.
If tartar and plaque aren’t eliminated quickly, a more severe form of gum disease may develop. More than 64 million American adults have periodontitis defined by the following signs:
- Pockets between the gums and the teeth
- Recurring gum abscesses
- Loose and shifting teeth
- Receding gums
- Tooth loss
- Degeneration of the jawbone
Unfortunately, the devastating effects of untreated plaque and tartar extend beyond the mouth as well. There’s a clear connection between poor dental hygiene and disease throughout the body.
The Best Ways to Stop Plaque and Tartar In Their Tracks
Even though plaque and tartar can cause serious harm to your mouth, they’re surprisingly easy to prevent. Use these tips to keep your mouth clean, healthy, and vibrant.
Improve Your At-Home Dental Routine
Brush, floss, rinse, repeat. Diligent at-home habits are your first line of defense against plaque, tartar, gum disease, and tooth loss.
Don’t rush through your brushing just to check it off your list. That won’t do any good. Brush for two minutes at least twice a day, followed immediately by flossing. Five minutes in the morning and five minutes at night- that’s all it takes to stop plaque in its tracks and prevent tartar from forming. Everybody has time for that!
Choose Your Foods Wisely
It’s not just your toothbrush and toothpaste that matter, it’s your diet as well. Believe it or not, poor food choices can undermine even the best brushing and flossing routine.
If you can make some minor adjustments to the foods and beverages you eat every day, you’ll make it harder for plaque to form at all.
It’s no coincidence that the healthiest foods for your body are also the healthiest for your mouth:
- Leafy greens
- Carrots and apples
- Milk, yogurt, cheese
- Nuts and seeds
- Lean protein
All of these options stimulate more saliva to clear away food debris. They also strengthen your teeth with calcium and other important nutrients. They’re healthy, filling, and tasty, so stock up now.
Quit Bad Habits
We all have not-so-great habits, but some are more harmful than others. Smoking and chewing tobacco are two of the worst enemies of your teeth. They stain enamel and leave your teeth looking brown. Even worse, they also make your entire mouth more susceptible to infections.
If you’re serious about improving your oral health and preserving a beautiful smile, those bad habits have to get kicked out the door.
Chew Xylitol Gum
This is an easy oral care tip that you can accomplish without any thought or effort at all. Xylitol is a sugar-free sweetener with many therapeutic properties.
Chewing xylitol gum a few times a day is a great way to safely stimulate saliva production and clear away food debris and plaque. Saliva also helps reduce acidity in your mouth, which is a highly effective way to prevent cavities.
Visit the Dentist
Visiting your dentist every six months is absolutely essential. It’s the very best way to remove and prevent plaque and tartar.
Each appointment gives your dentist the opportunity to evaluate your gums, teeth, tongue, and throat. If you skip appointments or only see your dentist every few years, it becomes much harder to identify and treat problems like decay and disease before they cause widespread damage.
You can expect your dentist in Encinitas, CA to perform the following steps in every cleaning and exam:
- Assess lymph nodes and lower jaw joints
- Check for signs of gum disease, loose or broken teeth, and decay
- Identify any change in the way your gums cover your teeth
- Consider the cleanliness and condition of your teeth and gums
Of course, every dental exam also involves a deep cleaning to remove plaque and tartar that regular brushing and flossing often miss.Topical fluoride is added as a simple yet powerful way to protect teeth from cavities.
At Ablantis Dental in Encinitas, CA, Dr. Cortadi and her team are committed to the practice of effective and personalized preventative dentistry. They believe in the power of prevention to protect your teeth, enhance your smile, and improve your overall health.
Call (760) 334-0128 to book an appointment today and give your mouth the TLC it deserves.