Are you familiar with the colorless, sticky film that coats your teeth after you eat? Just for a moment, run your tongue along the bottom of your teeth towards your gum line….what do you feel? This colorless film, known as plaque, hardens into tartar if you don’t remove it from your teeth.
Plaque develops as bacteria in the mouth react with sugar and starches from food and drinks consumed. This reaction produces acid that erodes tooth enamel. If it is not removed by daily brushing and flossing, it will harden quickly into tartar. Plaque can form anywhere from four to twelve hours after brushing, and once it hardens (tartar) and bonds to your enamel, your dentist will need to remove it using scaling instruments. Tartar becomes a crusty deposit that traps stains on your teeth. Calcium and phosphate bind together to form crystals on your teeth above your gum line which can irritate and damage your gum tissue, developing into gum disease over time.
What you can do:
1- Brush your teeth twice a day, for about two minutes. Use a soft-bristle toothbrush to gently clean the gums.
2- If you have a hard time brushing your teeth with a manual toothbrush, consider using a powered toothbrush. Studies show they are more effective at cleaning the hard to reach areas in the back of the mouth, and are easier to use by people with limited manual dexterity, such as children, people with motor disabilities, or older people with arthritis.
3- Use a tartar-control toothpaste to help curb plaque. If the toothpaste includes fluoride it can help repair damaged tooth enamel.
4- Next up, floss those pearly whites! Floss at least once a day, to clean those areas between the teeth. Any kind of flossing method is fine, whether a water flosser, a waxed ribbon or string floss, or a hand-held pre-threaded pick.
5- Consider adding an ADA approved antiseptic mouthwash to your oral hygiene routine to help remove bacteria that could turn into plaque.
6- Eat a healthy diet and limit sugary and starchy foods. If you sip sweetened drinks during the day, do it through a straw, and limit snacks.
7- Since saliva helps neutralize bacterial acids, hydrate yourself with water to avoid dry mouth.
8- See your dentist twice a year for cleanings and checkups. This is the time when tartar will be cleared off your teeth, helping you to prevent gum disease.
At Dr. Valerie Foster’s dental office we are happy to help you achieve a healthy smile! Please call us at 503.649.7011 to schedule your next cleaning or answer any questions.