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What is Plaque? 

Plaque is a biofilm that forms on the teeth in the absence of proper oral hygiene techniques (brushing, flossing, etc). Within plaque is a myriad of bacteria that can cause diseases in the supporting structures of the teeth: gingiva (gums) and bone. These bacteria live in our mouths at all times and thrive on the sugars in our diets. 

How does Plaque Cause Gum Disease? 

When plaque is not effectively removed from the teeth, it eventually hardens and becomes a material referred to as calculus (or “tartar”). Additional plaque will then adhere to the calculus, and the vicious cycle begins. Early in the cycle, the bacteria cause inflammation and bleeding in the gums, or gingivitis. As gingivitis progresses, it can transition into a more aggressive form of gum disease referred to as periodontal disease. In this phase, the bacteria attack and begin destroying the bone that holds the teeth in place. If the level of bone loss is severe, the teeth become loose and may eventually have to be extracted. 

Foods that are Most Likely to Cause Plaque Formation 

Reducing your carbohydrate and sugar intake will help to prevent plaque formation and development of gum disease. Limit sugary foods and drinks such as sodas, candy, and fruit juice. Starchy foods such as potatoes, bread, and rice may also contribute to the rapid formation of plaque. It’s important to brush well after consuming these products.  

How to Prevent Formation of Plaque 

In addition to avoiding foods that tend to form plaque, proper oral hygiene is imperative. We recommend brushing at least twice a day (I recommend after every meal) and flossing once a day. A soft bristled toothbrush should be used with light circles, being sure to also brush up near the gums. If the teeth feel “fuzzy” after brushing, you likely need to brush more. Be sure to clean all surfaces of each tooth. A mouth rinse can also be used after brushing to further ensure the removal of all plaque. It is also recommended to see your dentist every six months for an examination and a thorough, professional cleaning. Ask your dentist and hygienist if they’ve noticed any plaque accumulation and, if so, they can provide further oral hygiene instructions. Drink water throughout the day, as this can wash away existing plaque and make it difficult for further plaque to form. 

 

Are There Medicines That Can Help Prevent Gum Disease? 

There are mouth rinses that can be purchased over-the-counter to help control or prevent gum disease (such as Parodontax). Sometimes, your dentist may feel a more aggressive, medicated mouth rinse is warranted to help. If prescribed, take as directed and use in place of any regular mouth rinse you may be using. 

Can Plaque Affect the Rest of the Body? 

There have been numerous studies linking the bacteria in plaque to systemic health issues. The bacteria can enter the bloodstream and contribute to inflammation that causes various heart conditions, diabetes, or even rheumatoid arthritis. Risk increases as the severity of gum disease or periodontal disease increases. 

Summary 

In summary, certain foods and drinks can cause plaque to accumulate more rapidly than others. With a balanced diet, proper oral hygiene, and regular dental visits, plaque can be minimized and you can enjoy a healthy mouth!  

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