Your mouth is an amazing piece of anatomy. It houses your teeth and gums, tongue and….millions of bacteria. When you eat or drink, this oral bacteria reacts with the sugar that is produced, resulting in acid which destroys the teeth as the bacteria multiplies.
What is dental plaque?
The bacteria become a sticky film that coats your teeth. This film is colorless, but you can feel it when you run your tongue along the back of your teeth, especially towards the bottom. It feels slightly rough, and if you don’t clean it while it’s soft it eventually hardens and is becomes harder to remove.
What does plaque do?
This bacterial acid starts to deteriorate tooth enamel—which is the hard layer covering the softer dentin underneath. It eventually strips the minerals from the enamel causing holes over time. This is the early stage of a cavity. If this plaque wears down the enamel enough to reach the dentin, you may feel sensitivity. The dentin is sensitive and susceptible to acid erosion.
After reaching the softer dentin, it keeps wearing down the tooth’s structure, the bacterial acid working to decay the tooth. Next it targets the tooth pulp, which houses the nerves and blood vessels. This is the most sensitive part of your tooth. Now the bacteria irritate the pulp causing it to swell. You won’t be able to ignore the cavity at this stage because you may experience severe toothache and sensitivity. It will also hurt to chew. If your tooth becomes abscessed, you will have an infection, creating a pocket of pus as your body sends white blood cells to the area to fight the infection.
How to prevent plaque buildup
You can take steps to avoid the damaging effects of plaque. Make it a priority to brush and floss twice a day and stay hydrated to avoid dry mouth. Eat a balanced diet and avoid snacking in between meals. See your dentist at least once a year to remove hardened tartar. If tartar isn’t removed it can turn into periodontitis. This is a severe form of gum disease causing the bone which supports the teeth to break down. If your gums recede (pull away from the teeth) and destroy the bone supporting your teeth this can result in tooth loss.
Dr. Carol Halloran and the team at Crossroads Dental are here to help you with all your dental needs. Call us at 319.291.3908 if you have any questions or to schedule your next appointment!