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What is Plaque and How Can I Avoid It?

Most people have heard the word “plaque,” and know it’s not something you want on your teeth. Yet, they don’t know what exactly plaque is, or how it contributes to dental decay.

Plaque is a sticky, colorless film of bacteria that lives on the surface of your teeth and along the gumline. It accumulates from normal daily activities such as eating and drinking, especially if you’ve been consuming a lot of sugars and starches. 

Ever had that fuzzy feeling on your teeth that goes away after you give them a good brush?

Yep, that’s plaque.

Plaque contributes to dental decay. The bacteria like to consume the sugars in your mouth and excrete acids that wear away at your tooth enamel. 

When you don’t regularly brush and floss away plaque, it forms tartar. Tartar is the calcified substance on your teeth that only a professional cleaning can remove. When your Dental Hygienist scrapes away at your teeth, she is removing tartar. 

If you don't brush properly after meals, plaque begins to form and build up on your teeth right away. It takes about 12 days for the plaque to turn into tartar. That's why good dental hygiene and regular visits to the dentist are so important.

How can you avoid plaque?

Here are our five top suggestions:

1. Brush thoroughly with fluoride toothpaste at least twice a day

You know you should do it, but how often?

“Ideally, we want everyone to brush after each meal to remove plaque as soon as it develops,” says Dr. Morrison. "It’s especially important to get your bedtime brushing in", he says, "because without it, plaque sits on your teeth all night long".

2. Clean between your teeth

Your teeth aren’t the only places where plaque gathers. It also hides in the spaces between your teeth. In fact, one-third of your tooth surface cannot be reached by tooth brushing alone. Floss or other tools that reach that are key.

3. Swish with antibacterial mouthwash once a day.

For many people, antibacterial mouthwash can be another option in their plaque prevention toolkit. “Mouthwash generally helps loosen plaque, making it easier to remove,” Dr. Morrison says. 

4. Limit sugar and starch

When you finish eating, bacteria rush to the sugar left in your mouth and feed on it. The more sugary your food, the more bacteria there are to deal with when you brush.

5. Regular dental cleanings and exams 

Most of your plaque removal should take place during your home routine. “No matter how great a job you’re doing at home, there are some areas that are difficult to reach and clean properly, like under the gums or behind the second molars,” Dr. Morrison says. Besides cleaning the spots you might have missed, your Dental Hygienist can also tweak your tooth brushing techniques and catch any issues early, before they become bigger problems.


Is it time for your cleaning and exam? Give us a call at (919) 755-3450 or schedule online. We look forward to seeing you. 

At Jeff M. Morrison & Associates, DDS, we are ALWAYS taking new patients and have appointments available for same day and next day exams, cleanings and treatment.