Ever wake up feeling like your teeth are wearing a sweater? That sticky, fuzzy film on your teeth is called plaque. Living inside of plaque is a whole lot of cavity-causing bacteria. Whenever you eat, that bacteria turns the sugars in your food into acids. Those acids slowly wear away at the hard outer layer of teeth, and eventually, a cavity, or hole in the tooth can form. Plaque is always growing on our teeth, and so it is important to take steps every day to clear it away.
If plaque is left to sit on the teeth, over time it can harden and turn into something called tartar. As tartar builds up, it can push underneath the gums, causing bleeding or irritation, known as gingivitis. Gingivitis is the early stage of gum disease, and it can be stopped with good oral hygiene and simple dental treatments. If left alone, gingivitis can turn into severe gum disease, which can damage the bones holding the teeth, leading to tooth loss.
This all might seem kind of scary, but there’s no reason to stress out. Even though plaque buildup can harm your teeth and gums, it’s surprisingly pretty easy to keep it under control. Here are things you can do to keep plaque from taking over:
Brush after meals. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles, and a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste. Brush for two minutes, making sure to brush the back teeth.
Floss at least once per day. The best time to do it is before bed or after your last meal. Dental floss can target the plaque that’s hiding between your teeth, where a toothbrush can’t reach.
Visit the dentist twice per year for a checkup and cleaning. During a cleaning, the dental hygienist will scrape tartar off your teeth and polish them nice and smooth. Tartar cannot be removed by brushing or flossing, so getting professional cleanings at the dentist’s is super important for keeping cavities away!
Don’t let plaque stick around on your pearly whites. Attack that plaque before it attacks your teeth!