Skip a day without brushing your teeth or eat a particularly big meal, and a few things will start to happen…
- Your breath will smell bad
- Your teeth will get off-white or yellowish stains
Both of these effects are from the same culprit: plaque. The good news is that you can remove plaque from your teeth right at home. In fact, it’s the main purpose of brushing your teeth in the first place - that and to keep your teeth nice and shiny white! Let’s dive a little deeper into this topic and see what you need to get rid of plaque regularly.
What is Plaque? Where Does it Come From?
Let’s start with an overview of what exactly plaque is.
In a nutshell, dental plaque is a sticky substance that can appear pale yellow or relatively colorless. It’s always forming on your teeth, regardless of your diet or how often you brush your teeth. As your saliva combines with food molecules and most fluids, plaque builds up between your teeth, on your teeth’s surface, and on the gum line where your teeth’s roots reside.
This is a natural process since practically all food and liquids come with some bacteria. Although much of the bacteria on your food or in your drinks is swallowed and dissolved by stomach acid, some of it stays behind and sticks to your teeth.
Dental plaque never seems to go away. That’s because it starts to form on your teeth between 4 and 12 hours after you last brushed. This is the big reason why dentists recommend brushing multiple times per day.
Effects of Plaque
So, plaque settles on your teeth. What does it do there, though?
In short, plaque is the root of a ton of dental health issues. Since plaque is essentially solidified bacteria that grows over time, plaque also produces acid that can gradually destroy your teeth’s enamel: the key mineral that helps your teeth stay solid and hard over time.
Bacteria building up on and around your teeth is always bad since it could lead to cavities, which occur when bacteria grow to such an extent that they destroy surrounding tooth tissue. Furthermore, the bacteria and plaque can lead to the early stages of gum disease, like gingivitis.
But, there are aesthetic issues with plaque as well. It looks bad by itself, but over time it’ll turn your teeth a grimy yellow color, which can ruin your smile for your next photo. Too much plaque can also lead to bad breath, i.e. halitosis – this is no surprise since the more bacteria you have in your mouth, the worse-smelling it usually gets.
In short: plaque is always bad for your teeth. While you can’t get rid of it entirely, you can keep it at bay through regular dental habits and good brushing techniques.
Best Tools to Remove Plaque
Fortunately, you don’t need to head to the dentist to get rid of the majority of plaque that might affect your teeth. Instead, you can use multiple at-home tools and techniques to keep plaque at bay. While it’s important to visit a dentist occasionally (they have specialized tools to get plaque and other tooth issues that you can’t reach), most of your dental health will be determined by your at-home habits.
An Electric Toothbrush
The first and most important tool to remove plaque at home as an electric toothbrush. Why electric? Electric toothbrushes have multiple advantages over manual counterparts:
- For one, electric toothbrushes are easier to operate. You don’t have to move your arm back and forth, so it’s easier to use an electric toothbrush if you tend to cut your brushing routine short because your arms are getting tired.
- For another, many electric toothbrushes have automatic timers that will tell you when it’s time to stop brushing. This is hugely important since even people who brush every morning and every night don’t necessarily brush for long enough.
- Electric toothbrushes brush your teeth more evenly than you might with a manual toothbrush. Since the bristles rotate and vibrate at set frequencies, they’re more likely to get plaque evenly across your teeth so long as you direct your electric toothbrush along the right path.
All this is to say that electric toothbrushes should always be used when possible. Manual toothbrushes are still better than nothing at all, though!
One great example of a high-quality electric toothbrush is Dr. Brite’s Rejuvenate Sonic Toothbrush. Not only does this toothbrush bring electrical efficiency to your brushing session, but it also uses a sonic wave motor. These motors are more effective than other types of electric motors. Our excellent brush can wirelessly charge using a vertical stand, has four different modes of operation, and is totally waterproof.
Definitely try it out if you don’t already have an electric toothbrush in your bathroom kit.
Your electric toothbrush will be responsible for brushing the tops and sides of your teeth, as well as brushing along your gumline.
It’s also important that you get a good toothpaste to combine with your toothbrush. Toothpaste contains ingredients that can freshen the breath and dismantle bacteria with the help of your brush’s bristles.
However, it’s a good idea to avoid toothpaste that has been fortified with fluoride. Fluoride is actually a great mineral that can help bolster your teeth’s enamel -- the only problem is that most folks’ drinking water is already fortified with fluoride. If you drink regular tap water and also use a fluoride-filled toothpaste, you could accidentally ingest too much fluoride, leading to potential side effects.
At Dr. Brite, we produce high-quality and effective fluoride-free toothpaste options. Combine one of these with our sonic toothbrush and you’ll be well on your way to an excellent dental hygiene routine.
Next up is floss. Floss is hugely important since it’s able to get between your teeth and down to the roots of your gums: two areas where your toothbrush’s bristles will have a hard time reaching.
In fact, dentists often recommend flossing every time you brush your teeth. Be sure to push your floss down between your teeth until you touch the gums. This prevents your gumline from swelling or inflaming from bacteria and toughens your gums against decay -- don’t push too hard though, it’s all about flossing between your teeth and not necessarily digging into your gums.
Floss is also important to prevent bacteria from growing in the spaces between your teeth. It’s all too easy for people to get cavities between their teeth (or at the edges of individual teeth) since they can’t see plaque or discoloration there as they brush.
Your tongue is also usually pretty inundated with bacteria! Here’s a test – go to the mirror and stick your tongue out as far as you can go. Chances are you’ll find a lot of off-white or yellow plaque on your tongue near the back.
Not the prettiest sight, but that's just regular bacteria build-up: the same stuff you can find on your teeth if you don't brush them regularly.
By the same token, you should work to keep your tongue clean to prevent bacteria from spreading throughout your mouth and giving you bad breath.
However, the bristles on electric toothbrushes are usually quite ticklish and may be a little rough on your tongue. A much better tool is a tongue scraper. These are just metal widgets with three sides. You place the metal tongue scraper on the surface of your tongue, pull it forward, and it scrapes off bacteria and plaque in an instant.
Then you can rinse the tongue scraper off and start again. Just be sure not to overdo it so you don’t strip away your tongue’s tissues.
How Often Should You Use These Tools?
It’s important to use all of the above tools at home to maintain excellent dental health. But you should also use them often, not just once in a while.
Specifically, dentists recommend that you brush your teeth twice per day: once in the morning after breakfast and once in the evening after dinner. This means that most of your day will be spent with relatively clean teeth, lessening the likelihood of cavity development or gingivitis.
You should floss twice per day as well, and use your tongue scraper as often as necessary.
However, be sure not to over brush your teeth either. It’s quite possible to brush your teeth too much, which can wear down your teeth's enamel and lead to other dental health problems.
For cosmetics purposes a number of people regularly do teeth whitening. The frequency varies a lot per person, but many people use our extreme whitening kit once every 3-6 months.
What About a Dentist?
Taking care of your teeth at one home is just one part of holistic dental health. You should still regularly visit a dentist (about twice a year is best practice). They have specialized tools and more precise scrapers to get rid of plaque and other bacteria deeper between your teeth. They can also regularly check your teeth for any cavities or decay that might be forming.
In the end, removing plaque from your teeth at home is crucial if you want to enjoy your natural teeth well into old age. The good news is that keeping up a healthy dental hygiene routine is pretty easy when you have the right tools. Be sure to check out all of the electric brushes, toothpastes, and accessories here at Dr. Brite for optimal oral health!