There’s an enemy to good oral health lurking in your mouth, waiting to strike and do damage to your teeth and gums. Your dental care team is on the job, policing the area to keep it clean and to keep unhealthy conditions at bay. However, no matter how vigilant they are, your dental care team cannot do the job alone. They only get to see your mouth once or twice a year for well-cleaning visits. The daily grime busting work must fall to another power. You are the superhero who can save the day for your teeth, engaging in the daily battle against plaque for the good of your oral health.
The Invasion Begins
Every time you eat or drink, the battle begins anew in your mouth. As you eat, the pH level in your mouth begins to drop, making your mouth more acidic. This changing environment wakes up an undesirable element. Bacteria that live in your mouth begin to feed on the starches and sugars from the food you take in. The bacteria make acid by digesting the carbohydrates (starches and sugars), further dropping the pH level of your mouth. The bacteria grow quickly, forming a biofilm, more commonly known as plaque. Plaque bacteria start to act more like one big creature rather than a group of smaller creatures. They share resources, build up protective structures making them harder to hunt down and eliminate, and kick out other types of bacteria, making sure the bacteria all around them are the dangerous, cavity-causing (cariogenic) kind. It’s vital that the villainous plaque network is broken up regularly to make sure the bad element does not take over the entire neighborhood.
Fighting Off the Grime
A new superhero arrives just in time to keep your mouth healthy. That hero is you! Timely brushing and flossing is the first line of defense against plaque overgrowth. Brush your teeth at least every morning and before you go to sleep at night, taking time to brush every surface of every tooth. If you need to brush up on effective brushing technique for grime-fighting, you can check out the American Dental Association’s brushing technique video. Think of it as a superhero school from the OG of good oral health. For the youngest superheroes who need a little inspiration or reminder to brush regularly, Elmo and some Sesame Street friends have you covered with a catchy tune to remind you to brush up. If flossing isn’t your thing, talk to your dental care team at your next visit about other options for cleaning between your teeth. Special brushes designed to fit in between teeth and gums or an interdental water cleaner might be your superhero tools to save the day.
Keeping the Environment in Balance
Plaque both grows in acid and causes more acid. The more acid it causes, the more it can grow. The more acid and plaque on your teeth, the more your enamel is at risk of developing cavities. In your superhero tools, you may want to consider switching up your toothpaste for a product that contains baking soda, properly known as sodium bicarbonate. Toothpaste with baking soda has been shown to remove plaque more effectively than toothpaste without it. The baking soda provides an effective scrubbing agent without being too rough on the tooth enamel. More importantly, baking soda can neutralize and fight acid, making it hard for the plaque to overgrow. An oral rinse containing baking soda may be another tool to consider if you eat frequently throughout the day to help stop acid attacks whenever they start.
Breaking Through the Hard Stuff
What’s a superhero to do if your plaque network has solidified and become firmly entrenched? When plaque gets hard (calcifies), it is called tartar. There are tartar control products on the market, but they are for tartar control, keeping it from forming. Once tartar has formed, it needs professional removal. Even superheroes call for backup sometimes. The best way to control tartar is to prevent plaque from building up in the first place!
The Hero’s Victory
So, be your mouth’s hero by fighting grime and removing plaque every day. Keeping your mouth in balance with a high pH, keeping the environment healthy, helps keep the bad element from taking over and wreaking havoc with your oral health. It’s a tough job sometimes, but call on your inner superhero, reach out for backup from your dental care team (at least every 6 months to a year), and you can save the day!