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Taming the Plaque Monster

The mouth is a wondrous work of anatomy, it sustains your teeth and gums, tongue and throat…and bacteria. In the average adult 100 to 200 species of bacteria may call the mouth their home. To put that in perspective, for those who take care of their teeth, they may have 1,000 to 100,000 bacteria living on every tooth surface. And while many bacteria are harmless, some are not. One of the unfriendly bacteria is Streptococcus. This bacteria lives in your mouth and every time you eat or drink, it feeds on the sugars and starches left behind, creating acid. Left alone, this acid growth turns into a sticky film (plaque), coats the teeth and hardens into tartar.

How This Works
–Bacterial acid begins by breaking down your tooth enamel by stripping minerals from your enamel and creating holes.
–These holes expose the softer, sensitive dentin layer beneath the enamel. Dentin is even more vulnerable to the effects of acid erosion.
–The acid continues to wear down the tooth’s structure until it reaches the pulp, where the nerves and blood vessels live.
–The bacteria then irritate the pulp until is swells, causing severe toothache or sensitivity and pain upon chewing.
–If the tooth pulp becomes abscessed, infection ensues, creating a pocket of pus where the body sends white blood cells to fight the infection.

What you eat and drink makes a big difference to the amount of acid erosion you subject your teeth to. Sweetened drinks like soda, sports drinks and sweetened tea wreak havoc on your pearly whites. Consider switching to unsweetened (diet versions) to limit exposure. You can also try sipping them with a straw to keep the sugars at bay. Sugary cakes, sticky candies, pies, and even dried fruit (watch your trail mix!) also harm the teeth. Foods high in citric acid, like the lemon you might put in your water or tea, also erode the teeth. Like sugar, starchy foods like chips, bread, crackers and pasta should not be snacked on throughout the day as they are encourage harmful bacteria.

You are not without resources to fight plaque and cavities! There are things you can do to protect your oral health, including:

No. 1. Brush and floss twice a day.
No. 2. Rinse your mouth with water after eating or drinking, and add an antimicrobial mouthwash to your oral hygiene routine.
No. 3. Maintain saliva production and avoid dry mouth. Stay well hydrated by drinking plenty of water.
No. 4. Eat a balanced diet from the recommended food groups and avoid snacking between meals.
No. 5. Visit your dentist at least once a year for dental cleanings to remove tartar.

Total Care Dentistry here to help you keep cavities away. Please give us a call at 757-309-4450 if you have any questions or would like to schedule your next dental cleaning!