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.
I 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!