What Every Human Needs to Know About Plaque

What Every Human Needs to Know About Plaque

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Dental Plaque Dog Urinating
©JohannViloria/Shutterstock.com

How would you feel if a dog ran over to you and urinated on your foot?  What if that urine were so caustic that a skin graft were required to repair the damage?  You would probably be devastated — and rightfully so.  However, many people permit a similar situation to occur in their mouths everyday!

DogDid you know that right now, there are thousands of tiny living organisms called bacteria living inside of your mouth?  They love sitting on your teeth.  You provide them food, shelter, and an ideal environment with 100% humidity.  Your mouth is their dream home.  However, these bacteria are not well-behaved house guests — they can end up leaving your mouth quite dirty and in poor repair.

Your Mouth is A Five-Star Restaurant for Bacteria

When you eat, you provide  nutrients for the bacteria in your mouth.  When you take a sip of juice, milk, or soda pop, you’re feeding them.  Anytime you put anything in your mouth, you’re feeding them just what they want.  As you feed them and provide shelter, they grow and reproduce, making lots of little plaque families that call your mouth home.  They even are smart enough to build a little “house” that protects them from the natural plaque-fighting defenses in your body.  Scientifically speaking, these “houses” they build are called their extracellular matrix.  There’s just one slight problem: Their “houses” don’t have built-in plumbing.

What Do They Do Without a Bathroom?

So what happens after these bacteria enjoy a delicious glass of juice or a nice slice of whole wheat toast?  They go to work digesting their food through a process called glycolysis.  After they’re done digesting their food, they have to get rid of it, and when they feel that urge to let loose, it comes out all over your teeth.  Their “waste product” consists of a dangerous acid, called lactic acid that goes right to work dissolving the enamel on your teeth.  If this process continues, then cavities (scientifically known as dental caries) will develop.  The decayed tooth structure must then be replaced with artificial tooth by a dentist.

How to Stop the Bacteria

There are at least three proven ways to win the fight against these unwanted intruders:

1 – Brush Your Teeth – Brushing your teeth provides the force necessary to remove bacteria from your teeth.  Once the bacteria and their exctracellular matrix are removed from the surface of your teeth, your saliva works on restoring the enamel that was damaged by the bacteria.  If you don’t brush, the saliva cannot get past the bacteria’s matrix and is unable to repair the enamel.

2 – Floss Your Teeth – A toothbrush can only get the tooth surfaces that are easy to access.  Dental floss is needed to remove bacteria from the areas where a typical brush cannot reach, like in between teeth and below the gums.

3 – Use a Fluoride Mouth Rinse – Fluoride helps you win the fight against oral bacteria in two ways.  First, fluoride strengthens tooth enamel, making it less resistant to the acid that is secreted by bacteria.  Many studies have also shown that when the bacteria are in the presence of fluoride, their acid-production is greatly reduced.

It is important to recognize that each of the above methods will not completely eliminate bacteria from your mouth, they will simply reduce the bacteria to a healthy level.  By not removing plaque, the bacteria will grow to unhealthy levels that can cause gingivitis and dental cavities.

Conclusion

I know the dog analogy sounds a bit gross.  Hopefully it makes you really think about what goes on inside your mouth.  Bacteria really are living there and trying to destroy your teeth.  If you have any questions, you can leave a comment below and I will respond to it, or just send me an email.

Thanks for reading.  Good luck winning the war inside your mouth!

16 COMMENTS

  1. Wow… That really made me want to brush my teeth a LOT!

    You mentioned that the bacteria like sugary drinks a lot. Are there any other foods to avoid? What are some good foods that won’t feed the bacteria?

    • Thanks for the comment, Julie! It is a good idea to avoid foods high in sugar, or that have a high percentage of sugar. For example, it is better to eat an orange, than drink orange juice, since the juice has a higher concentration of sugar. Other carbohydrates are also problematic. Oral bacteria can easily digest potato chips. Potato chips also have the disadvantage that they are easy to get caught in the chewing surface of our molars, greatly increasing the amount of acid that the bacteria can produce.

      I will try to cover the “good foods” in a future article. Pretty much all foods give the bacteria nutrition. The key is to find the foods that give them the least amount of nutrition as possible. Some good ones are vegetables and cheese. The best drink, is simply pure water.

  2. Thanks for writing all that info.Now all i want to do is brush my teeth.I never knew this until my best friend went to a dentist and they told her this and she told me.And i thought eww gross I’m going to have to check that up.And i did and i found this.This was a lot of help.I never knew why my dads teeth were so black and broken.But know i relized that when you eat sugary food and dont brush you teeth they end up like that.And like i said know all i wanna do is brush my teeth.:)

    • Thanks for your kind words, Tatyania. When I was little, my mom told me that little bugs lived in my mouth and I had to brush them off. I think that’s what motivated me to keep my teeth clean as a kid. I’m glad I encouraged you to keep your teeth clean. We only get one set of permanent teeth and if we don’t take care of them, we will lose them.

      Your dad could have unfilled cavities and tartar on his teeth. This could be why they appear darker. Try to get him to go see a dentist, it will be worth it in the long run.

      Thanks for the comment!

  3. I have a small cavity and it is my first aged 31! I am not keen on having a filling so is there anyway I can treat this naturally? More brushing and flossing? My dentist said its very small hole but still wants to fill it? I would rather wait until its absolutlry neccesary before having any work done which may make things worse…

    Cheers Claire

    • Hi Claire – Congratulations on not having a cavity before 31, that’s pretty impressive! It all depends on the size of the cavity. More conservative dentists may recommend using a fluoride mouth rinse and avoiding eating sugar multiple times throughout the day. More aggressive dentists may recommend filling small cavities.

      Depending on how large it is, you may be able to allow the cavity to “heal” (remineralize) by using a fluoride mouth wash and brushing for two minutes when you brush so that the fluoride spends more time in contact with your teeth. You can always get a second opinion as well.

      I hope that helps – let me know if you hav any other questions. Have a great day!

  4. Hey Tom, I have a few sensitive teeth, they dont hurt but only when I eat chocolate, and bite down, they give a nasty sensation. I hope that’s not a sign of tooth decay or other problems. Can using those desensitizing toothpastes help ? Is it better to put the tooth paste on the the teeth directly for say half an hour before rinsing off ? because after doing that, my teeth feel kinda of ‘harsh’. And is there a way to cure sensitive teeth permanently ?

  5. I must say I thoroughly enjoyed this informative article. I really want to appreciate your way of conveying it as it kept me interested from the start till and end. I was actually searching about how scaling helps bleeding gums and I came across this article as well. I would surely come back to your blog for more teethy advice and solutions. Keep up the great work! God bless you.

  6. just had my tooth retracted but still in pain and feel numb for 4days now,, is it normal?

    regards

    Susan

  7. Thanks a whole lot forth’s article.

    It sure was enlightening.

    Please, my first right incisor has lost its filling. What would you recommend that I do?

    • Hi Otome – It would be a good idea to see your dentist. They can determine if they can simply replace the filling or if there was decay underneath, it may need more significant treatment such as a root canal and/or crown. I hope that helps!

  8. Hi Tom, where I live fluoride is mixed into the drinking water supply in small quantities, of course and I was wondering whether or not I should still use an oral mouthwash if I am drinking a fair load of water, thanks.

  9. hello sir, i’m 24yrs old. Plz suggest me a best way- i already exractd first upper and first lower molar tooth of right side due to acident last yr. Nw in the left side the lower first molar has a big cavity, and dentist sugest to filup with amalgam or extract it. The upper 1st molar of left side also broken a little at the corner, and sensitivty occurs frequently. So i thik to get a permanent implant at the already extracted 1st molar of the right side and also lower extracted 1st molar. Is it good for my health?..plz suggest…what i can do…

  10. Hi Tom,

    I just came back from the dentist and was told I have a decay in my tooth 🙁 I have been recently feeling the sensitivity in my teeth when I eat anything cold or fruits. So the Dentist suggested me to have a filling. It sounds scary when I have just reached 35 🙁 I always think filling should be old people’s business …

    Do you think it’s better to get the filling then not ? How late can I delay this ?

    I do brush teeth twice a day, but sometimes might not resist food again after I brush teeth already at night. I today heard the dentist say that brushing teeth should be the last thing at night. I just wonder how does that make it different when you have a whole day of eating food without brushing teeth, and a whole night of sleeping without brushing teeth ? The bacteria gets more active when you are sleeping ?

    Thank you very much for your article and I look forward to more of your wisdom.

    Thank you
    Chloe

  11. Hello Tom. Found your site when looking up “Basic Amalgam Fillings”. Got side-tracked by this article about plaque. I am blessed to still have most of my natural teeth bar 2 crowns at the front. Having been a typical child liking sweets, my teeth began to decay very early on; now many of them are full of metal and definitely not smile-friendly. Aiming to get cosmetic treatment done hopefully in the not too distant future; looking to have implant retained dentures fitted. I use a water pick and interdent brush, together with my normal tooth brush. Because I don’t floss every week, an odour comes from the top teeth and my gums bleed slightly. Obviously I suffer from halitosis, as people wipe their noses when I speak and make comments. So dentures should solve the problem and I gain nice white, even teeth. Thank you for your time.

  12. I brush and floss twice a day, yet I still have a tendency to accumulate a small amount of tarter on the lower front teeth on the gum line. I go to the dentist twice a year for cleanings and x rays. Sometimes it is sensitive at the point where the tarter forms at the base of one tooth. Should I see the dentist for cleanings more frequently than every six months to remove this build up? How long does it take for a cavity to form behind that tarter? I am 29 years old and have a fear of fillings/dental work, so I want to prevent problems as best I can. Thanks.

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