Everyone knows how crucial it is to brush, floss and rinse with mouthwash regularly to prevent plaque and tartar build-up. But do you know why this is necessary? What is plaque and how does it differ from tartar?
What is plaque?
A filmy coating made out of bacteria and debris, plaque accumulates on the outside of your teeth below and above your gum line. When you eat, the bacteria present in the mouth start to break down the carbohydrates from food into acid—mixing it up with leftover food remnants and saliva to create plaque. If left alone, it could harm your gums and teeth.
What is tartar?
Once plaque has built up, it may harden into tartar (a.k.a. calculus). By this stage, the bacteria in the plaque are creating acid by feeding on the sugars in your food, damaging your teeth and likely causing cavities. It also creates toxins that aggravate the gums, making you at a higher risk of developing gum disease.
What’s worse, tartar creates a breeding ground for plaque to thrive in, so bacteria can multiply even quicker. Unlike plaque, which is soft, it’s not possible to remove tartar by brushing or flossing. To get rid of it, you’ll need to visit a dentist for scaling and polishing.
Ways to prevent plaque build-up
Since tartar is nearly impossible to remove, what we should aim for is preventing the build-up of plaque instead. Here are some ways to do so:
1. Maintaining oral hygiene
It’s crucial to brush at least twice a day for a few minutes at a time using a soft-bristled electronic or non-powered toothbrush that is able to get rid of plaque. No matter how thorough you are with brushing, flossing is still necessary in order to remove plaque between the teeth and in the hard-to-reach areas. Make sure to rinse your mouth with an antiseptic mouthwash daily to kill the plaque-causing bacteria.
If your dentist has recommended braces to you, or if you’ve been wearing your metal, lingual or clear braces for a while now, it’s even more important for you to not neglect your oral hygiene—especially given how easily braces’ wires and brackets can trap bacteria.
2. Baking soda
A natural cleanser and abrasive, baking soda has long been known as a safe and effective way to get rid of plaque—without damaging the enamel. Studies conducted in the past have also proven that toothpaste containing baking soda were more effective than traditional toothpastes.
3. Oil pulling
Gargling either coconut, sesame or olive oil around in the mouth is an easy way to remove plaque, alleviate sore gums, prevent tooth decay and even strengthen teeth! The process is simple enough—pour 1 tablespoon of the oil into the mouth and swirl it for around 10-20 minutes before spitting it out into a bin or paper towel.
The oil is thought to be beneficial due to the fatty acids present within that have antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory effects.
If it’s too late for you and you’re worried about the price of removing the built-up tartar, there’s no need to—the cost of scaling and polishing is lesser than even the most affordable braces in Singapore!