The truth about plaque: causes, prevention and treatment
All of us should be familiar with plaque. But how many of us really know what it is? You may simply think of it as the leftover food stuck between your teeth. In fact, it’s a sticky film made up of over 1000 different species of bacteria - and they’re living in your mouth. Left unchecked, plaque can develop into all sorts of problems - which is why it’s so important to minimise plaque build-up and remove it quickly and effectively when it does occur.
How do I remove plaque?
The good news is you don’t need to visit the dentist to get rid of everyday plaque - it’s easily managed at home using a toothbrush. However, not all toothbrushes are created equal. The best kind of toothbrush for this task is an electric one, like Philips Sonicare (the most recommended sonic toothbrush by dentists all over the world).*
Philips Sonicare is purpose-designed to beat plaque, removing up to 7x more plaque than a manual toothbrush. It makes 62,000 brush movements per minute, meaning that you get much more efficiency out of your brushing session than you would with a manual toothbrush. The continually-brushing head sends thousands of gentle vibrations along your teeth and gums, helping you to remove bacteria from those hard-to-reach parts of your mouth that normal toothbrushes can’t get to. Regular brushing with an electric toothbrush, twice daily, should be more than enough to keep plaque under control between your 6 monthly dental check-ups.
What happens when plaque is left untreated?
So now for the bad news. The longer plaque and all that nasty bacteria is left to run riot across your teeth, the more difficult it becomes to remedy the situation. Left untreated, plaque can grow and harden into something called tartar, or calculus - hard, calcified deposits that coat the teeth.
Not only is calculus much harder to remove, meaning potentially expensive trips to the dentist, it can also lead to more serious problems such as gingivitis or gumdisease as well as cavities and tooth decay.
Five things you could be doing to prevent plaque
Brush twice daily, for two minutes. Undoubtedly the best defence against plaque and calculus is good old-fashioned tooth brushing. Check out our video on the best brushing technique for Philips Sonicare here.
Use tartar control toothpaste. Choose a toothpaste that is high in fluoride - this helps to repair the damage caused by tartar.
Floss once a day. Love it or hate it, flossing is still the most surefire way to remove those tiny particles of food that get caught between your teeth and which are the building blocks of plaque. If you’re not a fan of the sensation, try the Philips Sonicare Airfloss Ultra, which uses micro droplets of air and water technology to clean between and around the teeth instead of nylon floss.
Avoid high sugar, high starch foods. The bacteria that live in your mouth love nothing more than when you indulge in sweet, carbohydrate-laden treats - it attracts them like bees to honey. A diet that’s high in sugar and starch goes hand in hand with plaque build-up, so while the occasional indulgence is fine, try to keep your sweet tooth in check if you can.
See your dentist regularly. Been putting off that twice yearly check-up? Six months is the typical time it takes for plaque to harden into calculus, so delaying a visit to the dentist could mean the difference between a quick scrape and polish or something more serious. And what’s a few minutes in the dentist’s chair compared to a lifetime of healthy, white teeth?
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