When we don't take the time to thoroughly clean the food particles in our mouth away from our teeth and gums, they can mix with the bacteria that are always present and form a sticky substance called plaque. Acids are released that can attack the enamel of your teeth and cause damage, which can lead to cavities. Plaque that is not removed during brushing or by a dental professional can harden into tartar (or calculus). This causes a hard ridge which can make flossing and brushing even more difficult, and cause the cycle to spiral downward even farther. The ridge can eventually cut into your gums and cause bleeding. This tartar needs to be removed during a professional cleaning in a dentist's office. Left untreated, plaque can eventually end in gum disease or bone loss.
To begin the work of preventing plaque and tartar at home, brush at least twice a day for two to three minutes using fluoride toothpaste. Do not brush your teeth in a back and forth manner as this may cause damage. Brush instead in a circular up and down motion using gentle, but mildly assertive, force with a soft bristled toothbrush. Place the toothbrush at a slight angle against your gums and gently slide the bristles under the gum line. Using a circular up and down motion, brush only the outer surfaces of two to three teeth at a time, then move on and begin again. When it comes to cleaning the surfaces behind your front teeth, position the toothbrush up and down and use the tip to brush using several up and down strokes.
Clean thoroughly between your teeth using dental floss and an interdental stimulator. A tongue scraper can help remove any leftover bacteria on the tongue. Between brushings, eat healthy foods that promote bone and tooth growth, and cut back on sugary or sticky foods.
Find a dentist who you can see at least twice a year for an examination and thorough professional cleaning.
Your dentist may recommend additional treatments to heal swollen tissue or may prescribe a medication that kills the specific bacteria in plaque.
ChooseYourDentist.com is your go-to source for dental information and dental education. If you are concerned about preventing plaque and tartar, use our dental profiles to help find a family dentist or general dentist who can help because ChooseYourDentist.com is "where patients and dentists meet."