Dental Disease – Dental Plaque

Dental plaque is comprised of colonies of bacteria and other microorganisms mixed with bacteria by-products, dead cells and food residuals. Tooth plaque formation starts immediately after a tooth is cleaned. The micros organisms of dental plaque are all naturally present in the oral cavity, and are normally harmless. Failure to remove dental plaque by regular tooth brushing allows its build up in a thick layer. As it matures, different types of micro organisms appear. At the lower layers of plaque, nearest the tooth surface, the composition of dental plaque changes in favor of anaerobic bacteria.

Dental plaque formation starts almost immediately after tooth brushing. Some minutes after brushing your teeth, saliva derived glycoprotein deposits start to cover the tooth surface with what is referred to as “pellicle”. The formation of pellicle is the first step in dental plaque formation. The pellicle is then colonized by Gram-positive bacteria such as Streptococcus sanguis, Streptococcus mutans, and Actinomyces viscosus becoming what is known as dental plaque. Bacteria cells interact with pellicle components enabling plaque to firmly adhere to the tooth surface.

How does Plaque grow?

Plaque germs feed on many of the foods we eat. Carbohydrates and sugars are their favorites. When these germs stay on the teeth, they grow in number and form into clumps. Plaque produces acid as it feeds. This acid is the major cause of tooth decay and gum disease.

How can Plaque be controlled?

Some Plaque is removed by saliva or by movement of the tongue and cheeks over the teeth. Brushing and flossing every day can help to control plaque. Regular professional cleaning at your dentist office is the best way to keep plaque under control.

Follow these tips on how to remove plaque from teeth:

  • Brush thoroughly at least twice a day, with a fluoride toothpaste, to remove plaque from your teeth
  • Use dental floss daily to remove plaque from between your teeth and under your gum line, where your toothbrush may not reach
  • Check your teeth with plaque disclosing tablets to ensure removing tooth plaque.
  • Control your diet. Limit sugary or starchy foods, especially sticky snacks
  • Ask your dentist or dental hygienist if your plaque removal techniques are ok.
  • Visit your dentist regularly for professional cleanings and dental examinations

The main problem with sticky confectionery, such as toffee or dried fruit and with long-lasting boiled sweets, is that they remain in the mouth (and release sugar) for a long time, thereby increasing the likelihood of tooth decay. It is best, therefore, to eat sweets in moderation and to brush and floss your teeth regularly. If you must have sugary foods, restrict their consumption to immediately after meals, when increased saliva production makes them less harmful.

Another point often overlooked in dental health care for children is that children older than one year old should not be put to bed with feeding bottles containing fruit juice, sweetened tea, flavored or sweetened milk, or even cows milk. The flow of saliva slows during sleep and the liquid can stagnate on the teeth. The sooner a mother starts cleaning a child’s teeth – even if it is breastfed – the less chance of it developing tooth decay from food and drinks.

Foods that promote dental health care and especially lessen plaque formation are raw vegetables, nuts, popcorn, plain yoghurt and cheese. In fact, cheese is not only considered one of the best sources of calcium, but research has also shown that certain types – for example, aged Cheddar – protects the teeth against the acids that cause tooth decay.

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