The word dental plaque is often associated with sweets, tooth brushing and scraping, and a visit to the dentist. But what is dental plaque and why do we have it?

What is dental plaque?

The mouth is the perfect environment for the build-up of plaque – a tacky and colourless biofilm on the teeth. It results from the combination of saliva, food and other liquids creating the perfect setting for bacteria to grow and leave their biowaste. The bacteria and bacterial waste collect on both the teeth and the gums and in particular, at the meeting of the teeth and gums. Plaque is easily removed with the regular brushing of teeth. However, if the brushing of teeth is not performed correctly or frequently enough, it will harden and the plaque will become tartar. Tartar is a yellow/brown colour and its removal requires a visit to the dentist and a scaler, specialist dental equipment designed to effectively remove plaque and tartar.

Who is at risk of tartar?

Anyone is at risk of developing tartar as a result of the ineffective removal of plaque, if teeth are not brushed effectively or often enough. The dentist or dental hygienist is able to demonstrate appropriate tooth brushing techniques ensuring that plaque is removed from all hard to reach areas in the mouth. Those that are more susceptible to tartar are those that wear a brace and have over crowded teeth, hindering the ability to get between the teeth when brushing. Ageing and smoking also contribute to plaque and therefore, tartar deposits.

What causes dental plaque and tartar?

Since childhood, it is well known that sweets will ‘rot’ the teeth and this is correct. Food that contains high levels of carbohydrates, especially simple sugars such as found in sweets and sugary soft drinks, will contribute to the formation of plaque. Sugar in food and drink is used by bacterial in the mouth to rapidly grow and as a result bacterial biowaste is produced – it is the bacteria and this sticky environment that is tooth plaque. The bacteria also create an acidic environment that can destroy tooth enamel and lead to the formation of dental cavities, requiring a visit to the dentist for dental treatment.

Advanced gum disease

There are different types of bacteria in the mouth some are helpful and some are harmful. If left untreated, harmful bacteria e.g. Streptococcus mutans, can lead to advanced gum disease such as gingivitis, requiring medical treatment by the dentist. Gingivitis can result in damage to the bones and tissue of the mouth, known as periodontal disease. Periodontal disease will contribute to the loosening and loss of teeth if left unresolved.

Who is at risk of tartar?

Anyone is at risk of developing tartar as a result of the ineffective removal of plaque, if teeth are not brushed effectively or often enough. The dentist or dental hygienist is able to demonstrate appropriate tooth brushing techniques ensuring that plaque is removed from all hard to reach areas in the mouth. Those that are more susceptible to tartar are those that wear a brace and have over crowded teeth, hindering the ability to get between the teeth when brushing. Ageing and smoking also contribute to plaque and therefore, tartar deposits.

How do I spot plaque?

Although bad breath is a sign of a build-up of plaque, it can be difficult to see as it is clear or pale yellow in colour. This is why regular visits to the dental surgery is necessary, the dentist is skilled in detecting the early signs of dental disease and will be able to provide support in the reduction and management of any dental condition. Using a scaler and dental mirror, the dentist can scrape away plaque and tartar from the teeth, between the teeth and around the tooth and gum line.

Plaque and tartar prevention

The most effective way to manage the development of plaque, is a good daily tooth brushing regime. In addition, regular examination by the dentist or dental hygienist to ensure that the presence of any plaque and tartar is identified early. Dental surgeries also provide coloured dental tablets that once chewed, stick to the plaque on your teeth – this will help identify any areas of concern. Dental floss facilitates the removal of food deposits in between the teeth, reducing the risk of bacteria populating these hard to reach areas. The reduction of sugar in the diet will assist in minimising the risks of dental plaque but if a sugary drink is to be had, rather than sipping it throughout the day, it is recommended that the drink is drunk and then the teeth are brushed.

The removal of dental plaque and tartar

It is recommended that a dentist performs the removal of plaque in a dental surgery. Using the correct and high-quality equipment this can be performed with speed and ease. SS Dental group supply top-quality dental equipment to dental practices such as scalers for the use of tartar removal. The scaler is a quick and effective way of removing plaque and tartar.

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