On commercials for toothbrushes and at your dentist appointments, you hear about how you need to remove plaque from your teeth. But do you really know what plaque is or why you need to get rid of it in the first place? And what happens when plaque is allowed to build up? Is it really that bad? Get some clear answers about plaque from a dentist in Colorado Springs.
What is plaque?
Plaque is a sticky film of harmful bacteria that forms on your teeth’s surface and along the gum line. These bacteria thrive on the remnants of the food you eat, particularly on sugars and carbohydrates, and produce acids that attack your teeth’s enamel and irritate your gums. You can’t see these bacteria, making plaque difficult to see for the untrained naked eye.
What happens to plaque over time?
If not removed from the teeth and gum line, plaque attaches to the enamel and hardens or calcifies into tartar. Once it has hardened, it becomes much more difficult to remove, requiring professional-grade tools that dentists use. Once tartar as formed, the bacteria have easier, constant access to the enamel and gums.
What happens if plaque buildup goes untreated?
If plaque buildup or tartar is allowed to remain, the bacteria’s toxins are able to continuously attack your teeth and gums, leading to tooth decay and gum disease. Tooth decay, or cavities, can range in severity from a tiny spot on the surface to most or the entire tooth. If the decay reaches the inner layers of the tooth, it can cause extreme pain.
Gum disease is a serious condition that if left untreated could lead to permanent damage to the supporting tissues or bone or tooth loss. In the first stage of gum disease—or gingivitis—the gums bleed or become red or swollen. Then the gums can start to recede or separate from the teeth and form pockets for more plaque and food particles to accumulate. As the bacteria continue, the connective and supporting tissues for the teeth become destroyed, leaving the teeth unsecured and loose.
How can I treat plaque or tartar buildup?
Because tartar can only be removed by a dentist or hygienist using professional tools, you need to seek their help to address your plaque buildup. If caught and treated early enough, the damage from gum disease can be reversed. But if not, more drastic treatments or tooth restorations may be needed to address it.
If necessary, your dentist can remove the decayed areas of your teeth. Tooth decay that has affected the inside of the tooth requires root canal therapy to fix, in which the dentist clears out the tooth’s damaged pulp, or the layer that houses your tooth’s nerves. Then the dentist fills the cavity or places a crown on your tooth.
What can I do to prevent plaque buildup?
Unfortunately, there is no way to prevent plaque buildup completely. However, you can prevent it from becoming more serious by implementing these simple tasks into your routine:
- Brushing twice daily.
- Flossing once daily.
- Reducing your consumption of sugar and carbohydrates.
- Scheduling two dental checkups and cleanings
Even with faithful brushing and flossing every day, you may miss tiny bits of plaque that accumulate over time. That’s why you need to attend cleaning and checkup appointments with your dentist twice a year. Their professional tools can effectively clear off hardened plaque and give you a clean slate, and your dentist can perform an oral exam to ensure that you don’t have any signs of oral diseases, such as oral cancer or gum disease, as well as take other preventive measures.
Although you can’t avoid some plaque buildup, you can stop tooth decay and gum disease before they happen. Following these tips will help your teeth and gums stay healthy and happy, free from the harm that plaque can cause. Take the first step to preventing and treating your plaque buildup by scheduling a checkup and cleaning with your dentist in Colorado Springs.
About the Practice
At Aesthetic Dentistry by Design, Dr. Ken Gasper instructs other dentists in the United States, Canada, and abroad in modern functional orthodontic techniques, facial growth and development, and the treatment for TMJ disorders to general dentists and specialists. You may contact him by calling (719) 599-0700 or clicking here.