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What Is Dental Plaque? How to Fight It.

Have you ever run your tongue across your teeth, only to discover a gross, gritty layer? Maybe it felt fuzzy or even slimy. Well, that’s dental plaque and it’s fairly common. 

Specifically, dental plaque is a microbial biofilm produced when the bacteria in your mouth mixes with proteins and food byproducts. Untreated, it transforms into tartar, also called calculus – a hard, mineral build-up that can lead to tooth decay and gum disease. Some studies even link the bacteria in gum disease to heart disease and other health problems. 

So how do you fight dental plaque? 

“We absolutely want patients to follow a plaque-fighting regimen and there are lots of at-home measures we recommend,” said Dr. Matthew Parr, D.D.S, owner of Surf City Dental. “Even so, it’s equally important to come into the dentist’s office twice a year for cleanings. Our technicians use specialized instruments to remove tartar that’s really hard to get at. For instance, the chewing surfaces of back molars—in and around deep crevices—are very susceptible to build-up.”  

Through educational resources – like Surf City Dental’s video library, Oral Health Bytes – our team always strives to help patients stay on the preventative path with issues like dental plaque.  

Here are Some Other Tips to Controlling Tartar at Home! 

  • Brush your teeth twice each day and rinse thoroughly afterward. 
  • Consider investing in an electronic or powered toothbrush. Studies reveal a 21% reduction in plaque after three months of use compared to a manual toothbrush.  
  • Avoid sugars and starches whenever possible. 
  • Avoid tobacco products. 
  • Floss regularly. 
  • Drink enough water after each meal to wash out any food particles in your mouth. 
  • Avoid tobacco products. 
  • Floss regularly. 
  • Drink enough water after each meal to wash out any food particles in your mouth.
  • Schedule a dental visit for a professional cleaning at least every six months. 

Go Natural, Too! 

With potential risks of chemicals such as anti-bacterial Triclosan, a common ingredient in tartar-control toothpastes and other products, some prefer a natural alternative. 

One example of a plaque-fighting technique is to rub the inside (white part) of an orange peel on the surface of your teeth for about two minutes before brushing. Orange peel contains vitamin C, which has been shown to help prevent plaque build-up. 

We’ve written about the time-tested Ayurvedic method of oil pulling for maintaining oral health. 

That’s Not all! 

Since plaque is nearly impossible to see, tablets are available that contain a red dye (such as Phloxine B) that actually stains the plaque. The patient chews the tablet, swishes around with saliva for about 30 seconds, then rinses their mouth with water. Red-stained areas indicate plaque. There’s also Plaque HD, which is a toothpaste that turns plaque green, so you know where to spend extra time brushing. Still, always read the product label first to assure it doesn’t contain ingredients that could trigger allergies or other reactions. 

“Fighting plaque is a proactive effort,” said Dr. Parr. “If patients ever have a question about best approaches, our Surf City Dental team is always here to help.”