PLAQUE AND TARTAR are two words that you probably hear a lot when you come in for a dental cleaning. You might already know that they cause tooth decay and gum disease, but do you know what they are? Let’s take a closer look at these two substances that are a constant threat to our oral health.
Stage 1: Plaque
Dental plaque is a soft, sticky, colorless biofilm composed of bacteria, food particles, and saliva. It builds up on and between our teeth and beneath our gums every day. If you’ve ever forgotten to brush in the morning or at night, you’ve probably felt that unpleasant texture with your tongue.
Plaque contains millions of bacteria, and this bacteria digests leftover sugars and starches from the food we eat, then excretes acid onto our teeth. Because plaque is soft, it can be removed with simple brushing and flossing, but we have to be thorough and diligent to get as much of it as possible.
Stage 2: Tartar
The reason it’s so important to scrub away the plaque is that when plaque is allowed to sit on the teeth too long, it becomes tartar. Tartar is a hard, yellow or brown substance that bonds to tooth enamel and can only be removed at a professional cleaning appointment.
How does this transformation happen? When the acid excreted by oral bacteria comes into contact with minerals in our saliva, it causes a chemical reaction that hardens the plaque into tartar. The risk of tartar buildup is higher for people with braces, dry mouth, crowded teeth, or a smoking habit, and it also increases with age.
Keeping Plaque And Tartar Under Control
A rigorous oral hygiene routine, paired with regular professional cleanings, is the best way to control the plaque in your mouth and prevent it from hardening into tartar. Here are some of the things a good routine should include:
Brush twice a day for two minutes, making sure to brush all surfaces of the teeth and paying special attention to the gum line.
Floss or use a water flosser daily to clean the plaque and food debris left in those hard-to-reach spots between the teeth.
Choose an anti-plaque toothpaste.
Consider getting an electric toothbrush for more effective plaque removal, and replace your toothbrush (or the head of your electric toothbrush) regularly.
Give oral bacteria less fuel by cutting down on sugary foods and drinks.
Avoid smoking, which increases plaque and tartar.
Schedule dental cleanings once every six months.
Win The Battle For Your Dental Health
It might seem discouraging to think that plaque will creep back up throughout the day even after you brush and floss thoroughly. A better perspective is that it only takes a few minutes each morning and night to win the daily battle against plaque and tartar, and you can improve the odds for your teeth even more with regular dental visits!
Together, we can keep those teeth plaque and tartar free!
WE’VE ALL BEEN THERE BEFORE — sitting in the middle of a job interview or a first date and realizing that our breath is far from minty fresh. Even when everything else is going perfectly, bad breath can be enough to ruin your confidence and turn a good experience sour. Why do we get bad breath, and what can we do to stop it?
Oral Bacteria And The Food We Eat
In order to effectively fight bad breath, it’s important to figure out what’s causing it. The simplest and most common cause is leftover food particles stuck between our teeth after a meal. The bacteria in our mouths break down these particles, and the end result doesn’t smell good. We can combat this with a good daily hygiene routine,including daily flossing, twice-daily brushing, scraping our tongues clean, and chewing sugar-free gum.
Causes Of Chronic Bad Breath
Chronic cases of bad breath (also called halitosis) might not be solved by good oral hygiene practices alone. Halitosis may be caused by:
Chronic conditions. Sometimes, bad breath is linked to conditions that you wouldn’t think are connected to oral hygiene, such as diabetes, liver or kidney disease, and acid reflux.
Medications. A common side-effect of medications is dry mouth. Without saliva to wash away food particles and neutralize acid, the mouth is vulnerable to problems like bad breath.
Mouth-breathing. Whether it happens by habit or because breathing through the nose is difficult, mouth-breathing tends to dry out the mouth, leading to the same problems as described above.
Mouth, nose, and throat infections. Bad breath can be the result of increased mucous when we have a cold or a sinus infection.
Pregnancy. Symptoms such as morning sickness and nausea can cause bad breath, because of the extra acid in the mouth. This is also a problem for people struggling with bulimia.
Tobacco products. Tobacco in any form leaves smelly chemicals in the mouth and can also dry it out. In addition, it increases the risk of oral cancer and gum disease, which negatively impact breath as well.
Tooth decay and gum disease. Poor dental health often goes hand-in-hand with chronic bad breath because cavities and periodontitis are caused by the same bacteria that produces those nasty-smelling chemicals.
Keeping Your Breath Fresh
Even if strict oral hygiene isn’t enough to keep the bad breath completely at bay, it will help to manage it, and treating the underlying cause may be able to eliminate it. If you are a habitual mouth-breather, try breathing through your nose more. Quitting smoking will eliminate a major cause of bad breath. If dry mouth is the problem, chew sugar-free gum and mints to stimulate saliva production, sip water, and use a humidifier to help keep up the moisture.
Your Dentist Can Help
Discovering the underlying cause of bad breath is a crucial step in fighting back, and the dentist is your best ally here. Schedule an appointment so that you can get the answers you need to fight bad breath the best way.
WE ALL REMEMBER WHAT it was like to be a kid. Running around, playing outside, discovering the world around us, and making great friends. We also remember the scraped knees and bumps and bruises that came along with all of that. As parents, we want our kids to have all the same great experiences we did, but hopefully without some of the injuries — particularly tooth injuries.
Tips For Tooth Safety
There are a few simple things we can do to keep our kids’ teeth safe, whether they’re at home or playing with friends.
The most common cause of tooth injuries in babies and toddlers is the bathtub. All that slippery porcelain makes it easy for them to fall and hurt their teeth. To minimize this risk, never leave a baby or toddler unattended in the bathtub.
Frisbees, balls, and other things meant for throwing can easily cause tooth injuries. Before your child goes out to play, talk to them about safety and stress the importance of not aiming for each other’s heads.
Playground equipment such as swings, a jungle gym, or monkey bars are not kind to teeth if a child falls on them face-first. Make sure your child knows to be careful before going on the playground.
Sometimes accidents happen even under careful adult supervision and when the children understand potential hazards and use caution. Don’t panic if your child loses or injures a tooth. If it’s an adult tooth or if it’s a baby tooth that wasn’t already loose, try to put it back in place, then come straight to the dentist. Reattachment isn’t always possible, but this will give it the best chance.
If you can’t easily put the tooth back in place, store it in a glass of milk to keep the root alive while you’re on your way to the dentist. The faster you get to us, the better chances the tooth will have of being saved. Make sure you don’t try to clean the tooth or put it in water, though, because this will kill the root!
Keep Those Teeth Healthy
Another important way to protect your child’s teeth from injury is to keep them healthy with twice-daily brushing and daily flossing, as well as regular dental appointments. Healthy teeth are stronger and more resistant to injury!
IF WE ASKED you to list three things that happen in a typical dental exam, dental X-rays would probably be one of them. But do you know what they’re used for? It depends on the type of X-ray, so let’s look at what these are.
Getting The Wide Shot With Panoramic X-Rays
If you’ve ever stood on a circular thing with your chin on a little platform and been told to stand still for a few seconds while a machine spun around your head, you’ve had a panoramic X-ray. This is the most common type of extraoral (outside the mouth) X-ray.
Panoramic X-rays show the entire mouth in one image. In them, we can see incoming adult teeth and wisdom teeth, including impacted ones, which is how we can determine whether there is enough room for them and if they’ll come in without any extra help. This type of X-ray also makes it easier to detect abscesses, tumors, and cysts.
Enhance: Periapical X-Rays And Bitewing X-Rays
In photography, wide shots show a lot, but they aren’t as useful for details as a closeup. The same is true in X-rays, which is why we don’t rely only on the panoramic image. The next level of dental X-rays are the bitewing X-rays. These intraoral (inside the mouth) X-rays focus on a specific area inside the mouth at a time, and we usually take one for each of the four quadrants of your mouth.
Bitewing X-rays give us a better view of the gaps between teeth, which are hard to see with the naked eye. These images make it easy to check for tooth decay and cavities in those areas. When we need to get even more detailed, we take periapical X-rays, which hone in on an individual problem tooth . These can be taken alongside bitewing X-rays.
Are Dental X-Rays Safe?
Dental X-rays involve brief exposure to low levels of radiation, but they are considered extremely safe. The short exposure time and protective coverings like the lead apron ensure that radiation exposure is as low as possible. We also only take X-rays as often as we absolutely need to, which further reduces exposure.
Factors that determine whether or not X-rays are necessary include the patient’s age, stage of dental development, oral health history, risk factors for various conditions, and whether or not they are presenting symptoms of oral health problems.
Still Have X-Ray Questions?
If you would like to know more about how we use dental X-rays in our practice or have any concerns about safety, just ask us! We want our patients to have all the information they need to feel comfortable when they come to see us.