Bacteria thrive in a moist, dark environment with lots of sugars for nourishment. This is why your mouth is often their home. But when bacteria overstay their welcome and create a sticky buildup of bacterial plaque on your teeth, dental problems can develop. Bacterial plaque causes gum disease and tooth decay in a few ways, but it is all of this is preventable.
As bacterial plaque continually accumulates on your teeth, according to the American Dental Association (ADA) Mouth Healthy site, it uses the foods and drinks you consume to produce acids. Plaque’s stickiness keeps the acids against your teeth’s surface, which gives them an opportunity to break down the tooth enamel.
Tartar Buildup and Gum Disease
The same bacterial acids that destroy tooth enamel can initiate an infection of your gum tissue and bone surrounding your teeth. When you don’t remove all of the bacterial plaque from your teeth, it hardens into tartar.
In the first stage of gum disease (gingivitis), your gums may become red, swollen and bleed easily due to plaque adhering along the tooth and gumline causing inflammation around the teeth. If plaque and tartar are left at the gumline and underneath the gums, bacterial toxins may attack the bone and ligaments surrounding the teeth in more advanced phases of gum disease, like periodontitis, can occur.
Weak Tooth Enamel
Weak tooth enamel is less likely to resist the bacterial acids in your mouth that lead to tooth decay. Use fluoride toothpaste to strengthen and protect your tooth enamel, and ask your dentist about other sources of fluoride such as mouth rinses, supplements or fluoridated water.
Skimping out on personal care will only hinder your ability to reverse gum disease, and it starts with toothbrushing. Bacteria build up more quickly when it isn’t regularly brushed away, so brush your teeth with a soft-bristle toothbrush at least twice daily. Pay particular attention to the plaque that gathers around the gumline. Replace your toothbrush often as well; worn, frayed brushes don’t clean thoroughly and they harbour old bacteria – the culprit you’re trying to get rid of.
Flossing once a day is recommended because your toothbrush cannot reach all of the food and bacteria trapped between your teeth. By removing plaque and debris from these hard-to-reach surfaces (before it hardens into tartar), you reduce your risk for decay or gum disease. The best time to floss is before bed so that your mouth has fewer bacteria while sleeping – but if you prefer flossing in the mornings, that’s okay too. If you find flossing awkward, ask your dentist about floss holders or other interdental cleaning devices that are available.
Regular Professional Cleanings
Bacteria that hardens into tartar isn’t removable with a toothbrush, so cleanings done by your dentist or dental hygienist are also necessary to remove plaque and tartar on your teeth or under your gums before it can cause gum disease. During these checkups, your dentist will detect and treat any decay or gum problems early, before more serious dental problems have a chance to take hold.
Bacterial plaque is the bad guy when it comes to dental disease. But don’t let plaque win the battle. Know the common causes and give bacterial plaque the boot with a daily arsenal of preventative measures.