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Weapons of Plaque Destruction

About five years ago, I was sitting in the first lecture of an Introduction to Dentistry class.  The professor, a local dentist, was talking about how plaque forms on our teeth and how it causes our teeth to decay.  Something clicked inside of me that day, and that lecture helped solidify my desire to become a dentist.

Weapons of Plaque DestructionI summarized that lecture in my first post ever on Oral Answers back in January 2010 entitled What Every Human Needs to Know About Plaque. If you haven’t read it and you’re curious about how tooth decay begins, you might want to take a look at it.

Because plaque can eventually cause you to lose your teeth, it is important to remove it and try to minimize its formation.  Here are 12 easy ways you can do that: The Top 12 Weapons of Plaque Destruction.

Top 12 Weapons of Plaque Destruction

Weapon #1 – Brushing Your Teeth

Brushing your teeth not only removes plaque, but some toothpastes also contain antimicrobials, such as Triclosan in Colgate Total. Toothpaste also contains abrasives which can help mechanically remove plaque from your teeth.

To find out what else is in toothpaste, read The 10 Main Ingredients In Your Toothpaste.

Weapon #2 – Flossing

Flossing helps remove plaque that is stuck between your teeth.  Cavities between teeth are so common that the two fillings required by the most popular dental board exam both have to include a cavity that is between two teeth.

Think you could use some tips on flossing?  Start by reviewing these 10 common flossing mistakes.

Weapon #3 – Fluoride

Fluoride has three different ways that it makes our teeth stronger and more resistant to the bad effects of plaque.  Fluoride is the only active ingredient in most toothpastes sold in the United States.  Fluoride is also added to many municipal water systems.  There is a strong, ongoing debate about whether or not it’s okay to add fluoride to everyone’s water.

Weapon #4 – Xylitol

Xylitol is a sugar alcohol that somehow helps fight plaque.  Xylitol is found in many chewing gums and you can also buy it in solid form from many health food stores or from Amazon.  Then you can use it to sweeten drinks like tea and coffee.

To learn more about this valuable plaque-fighting sugar alcohol read the article, Xylitol: What It Is and How It Protects Your Teeth.

Weapon #5 – Anti-Plaque Mouthwash

Many plaque-fighting mouthwashes contain ingredients such as cetylpyridinum chloride (CPC) which can kill the bacteria responsible for causing cavities.

Weapon #6 – Water

Drinking water or rinsing your mouth out with water after eating sugary foods can help wash away food that sticks around in your mouth. Since the bacteria live off the food you eat, you will be starving them by rinsing out your mouth.

Weapon #7 – Saliva

Saliva helps protect the teeth in many ways.  You can read about the six main ways that your spit protects your teeth in the post, How Saliva Protects Your Teeth.

If you suffer from dry mouth, you may be losing the war against plaque in your mouth.  Learn about six causes of dry mouth and 348 medications that can cause dry mouth.

Weapon #8 – Plaque Disclosing Tablets

If you don’t know where the plaque is, it’s hard to destroy it.  Plaque disclosing tablets work by coloring the plaque on your teeth so that you can make sure you’re removing it all when you brush and floss.

To learn more about plaque disclosing tablets, including the best places to buy them, read How Plaque Disclosing Tablets Can Help You Brush Better.

Weapon #9 – Chewing Gum

Chewing stimulates your salivary glands.  Some types of chewing gum are better than others.  Make sure you’re chewing the right type of gum for your oral health by reading about which of the three types of chewing gum is best for your teeth.

Weapon #10 – Your Tongue

Your tongue is a big weapon of plaque destruction.  Your tongue (with the help of your saliva – see weapon #7) can help clean sugary food off of your teeth so that you swallow it rather than letting it sit on your teeth and feed the plaque.

Weapon #11 – Certain Foods

Certain foods can actually help your teeth repair themselves after you eat a sugary snack.  Cheese contains phosphates and calcium that your saliva can utilize to help remineralize your teeth after they get “attacked” by the acid from plaque.  To appreciate this effect, you might want to read about what happens in your mouth every time you eat or drink.

Not sure what to eat for healthy teeth?  Learn about 16 delicious foods that you and your teeth will enjoy.

Weapon #12 – Sealants

Sealants are mainly used on children’s permanent molars.  Sealants are a strong plastic material that dentists can flow into the small grooves on the biting surfaces of your children’s teeth.  By covering up these grooves, you remove a nice, hard to brush place where plaque loves to hide.  Sealants are very effective at preventing tooth decay on the biting surface of molar teeth.


Hopefully this article gave you some good ideas about how you can help win the war against plaque in your mouth and help your teeth to live a long life.

Do you have any questions or anything you’d like to say about oral health or hygiene?  I’d love to hear your comments below, and I’ll try to personally respond to each one.  Thanks for reading!

Rockport Harbor Maine Dental Association

My wife and I traveled up to Maine this past weekend to attend the Maine Dental Association’s annual conference.  Since Maine doesn’t have very many dentists, they are trying to attract dental students to go and practice there after they have graduated.  It was really pretty (see the end of this post for some pictures), and they might have won us over…  but we’re still not quite sure where we’ll end up in 2012 when I graduate.  I’ll get to the links now, but scroll down to the end if you want to see some of the pictures we took in Maine.

Oral Answers Featured in Glamour Magazine’s Blog

Oral Answers LinksRecently, an Oral Answers article, Don’t Treat Your Teeth Like Tools was the subject of a blog post on the Glamour Magazine Vitamin G blog – check it out here.

The author, Sarah Gio, commented that “dental health has never been so interesting!”  Hopefully you agree.

Are Dental Sealants Safe for Your Children?

A recent study showed that dental sealants, a thin layer of plastic placed over teeth to keep the bacteria from causing a cavity, can release a chemical called bisphenol-A (or simply BPA.)  BPA has been linked to cancer, diabetes, early-onset puberty, and obesity.  For more on bisphenol-A, you can read this information page from USA Today.

Here’s the American Academy of Pediatrics said in their statement on the BPA issue:

” On the basis of the proven benefits of resin-based dental materialsand the brevity of BPA exposure, we recommend continued usewith strict adherence to precautionary application techniques.Use of these materials should be minimized during pregnancywhenever possible. Manufacturers should be required to reportcomplete information on the chemical composition of dental productsand encouraged to develop materials with less estrogenic potential.”

Other media outlets also reported this story.  You can read what CNN wrote, what USA Today wrote, and what MSNBC wrote.

For now, it is accepted that the cavity-preventing benefits of dental sealants outweigh the risks posed from a BPA exposure.

Practicing Dentistry Without a License

Frank Cerebino wrote an entertaining article in Florida’s Palm Beach Post regarding the recent surge in arrests of people practicing dentistry without a license.  I’ve noticed this trend, but didn’t think much of it until reading his article.  Here’s a quick excerpt:

Doing dental work without a license has to be one of the least appealing crimes.  If I were going to impersonate a white-collar professional, a dentist would be somewhere near the bottom of the list, certainly ahead of a proctologist, but not by much.

Here’s a news report of someone practicing dentistry without a license, another one here, and one last one.

Pictures from Our Trip to Maine

Here’s a few pictures we took on our trip to Maine for the Maine Dental Association’s yearly conference.

In the picture below taken in Glen Cove, ME, you can see Clam Cove on the right, and the West Penobscot Bay on the left which leads to the Atlantic Ocean.

Clam Cove in Glen Cove, Maine

We took this picture on Highway 1 in Maine as we were driving over one of the many bridges.

Going over a Bridge on Highway 1 in Maine

We love seeing the leaves change colors in the fall:

Maine Autumn Leaves on the Trees

Here’s one more view of Clam Cove and the West Penobscot Bay

Another View of the Bay from Glen Cove, Maine

We loved the beautiful scenery and the wide open spaces in Maine!  It was a welcome break from dental school in the crowded city!

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them in the comments section below.