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How can I prevent plaque and tartar?

Plaque is the biofilm that develops on the teeth and when it hardens this plaque can form tartar. The mainstay of prevention includes daily flossing, brushing twice daily, avoiding tobacco and eating a healthy diet. Regular dental evaluations and cleanings through the dentist can also be useful in removing hard tartar that forms on the teeth but can’t be easily managed with home dental care. Early dental intervention is also important with children to set up good habits and supporting the growth of healthy teeth. Counseling on appropriate use of bottles and sippy cups, diet and tooth care early on can also be helpful in reducing plaque and tartar that can contribute to gum disease and cavities.
Plaque and tarter can be reduced by good oral hygiene habits including: brushing twice a day, regular flossing, use of mouth wash, etc. Some foods also decrease plaque. Fruits, such as apples, mechanically remove plaque. Diary products like cheese can decrease plaque attachment, also. Regular dental checkups and professional cleanings can help to get the hard-to-reach areas. Dental professionals can give you tips specific to your mouth that can make you more efficient.

Everyone has the plaque bacteria in their mouth. By properly brushing and flossing your teeth, you can prevent the plaque from sticking onto your teeth. Once the plaque is on your teeth, it can cause cavities and gingivitis. Over time the plaque hardens and becomes tartar. At this point, brushing and flossing are unable to remove tartar, and it must be professionally removed at a dental office. 

Carol Jahn
Dentist

The best way to prevent plaque and tartar buildup is to practice good daily home care. Twice daily brushing along with cleaning in between your teeth once a day is ideal. Most people master brushing, but many struggle with dental floss. If that is true for you, consider using a toothpick, interproximal brush or Water Flosser. All provide a high level of cleansing similar to floss and are generally easier to use. Additionally having your teeth cleaned by a dental hygienist twice a year is essential.

On a daily basis plaque builds up on teeth. Plaque is a soft film that is made up of bacteria and bacterial byproducts. This biofilm is very close to your tooth color and can be difficult to see. If it is not removed on a daily basis consistently then the minerals from your saliva will cause it to become hard and turn into tartar. That is why it is recommended to brush after every meal and floss at night to prevent this accumulation.

Depending on your body chemistry you may be predisposed to accumulating plaque and tartar more frequently. For these individuals a professional cleaning may need to be done more frequently then just twice a year. Talk to your dentist to see what oral hygiene regimen is best for you. 

A biofilm forms on the gum line constantly. If this biofilm is not removed by the regular proper oral hygiene, it becomes thick and turns into plaque. If plaque is not removed it calcifies and forms calculus which is commonly known as "tartar". To eliminate the formation of plaque and tartar, every person needs to perform on a daily basis "gum brushing," which is commonly known as tooth brushing, twice a day and follow that by a professional cleaning in a dental office every 3 to 4 months. I highly recommend that a person of 30 years and older start visiting a periodontist alternating the cleaning visits with the general dentist... I will conclude with a tip: while brushing your teeth if you don't feel the brush on your gums, you are not properly brushing. Always remember, plaque starts on the gum line and works its way up or down to the rest of the tooth.

The latest research has shown that plaque and tartar (a mineralized plaque) are actually "unhealthy expressions" of the oral biofilm, an essential and protective bacterial community that covers the entire oral cavity and aids in digestion while playing an important role in the salivary immune system. By promoting homeostasis (balance) to the oral biofilm is the most effective way to reduce plaque and tartar. After 15 years of research in this area, I have found that the old approach of most commercial oral care products to "kill plaque" is not only ineffectual but harmful. Eliminate most harsh oral care products (I developed a vitamin based formula toothpaste known as Revitin which is so natural you can eat it), and adopt a more alkaline nutritional program (lots of greens) that is also anti-inflammatory and antioxidant rich (my Triple A nutritional recommendation) for a healthy balanced biofilm that will rid your mouth of that sticky, smelly unhealthy plaque and replace it with a thin, odorless and tartar-resistant environment instead.

Plaque and tarter are fairly easy to stay ahead of. What you need to do is brush and floss on a regular basis. Twice a day (or even more) with brushing, and once a day with flossing. Avoiding sugary foods will help as well. Getting a professional cleaning at your dentist's office twice a year is also an excellent augmentation to your daily routine.

Lastly, put the soda down, and instead, drink a lot of water. You'll avoid the sugar, and the water will help rinse your mouth as well.

While brushing well and flossing are the best ways of reducing plaque and tartar, there is more. Staying away from carbohydrates like breads, crackers, and sugary soft drinks will certainly help. Some unlucky people have a body chemistry that forms lots of tartar, so if you are one of those, only professional help, like dental cleanings, will be successful. It is important to work with your dental professional to create an individual prevention plan that will work best for you.

There are things you can do to beat plaque. Limit eating and drinking between meals and, when snacking, give preference to nutritious foods. Be mindful of the effects of frequent consumption of sugary beverages and nonnutritious snack foods. Brush twice a day, floss or use an interdental cleaner once a day, and have regular dental check-ups.
It’s easy to prevent plaque and tartar. You simply have to brush and floss your teeth regularly and effectively. It is also important to brush and floss correctly. Most dentists recommend brushing at least twice a day for at least two minutes. Make sure you clean each tooth thoroughly and use toothpaste with fluoride in it. Flossing is also important. You need to floss at least once a day to clean the areas of your teeth that cannot be cleaned with a toothbrush. Gently use floss to clean the area in between your teeth and between your teeth and gums as well. On top of brushing and flossing, it is also important to see your dentist twice a year for a check up, and it’s always a good idea to avoid sugary foods and drinks as well.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.