The Perils of Plaque

Recently I had the opportunity to appear on The Dr. Oz Show to discuss a problem many people ignore, but if not addressed, can be deadly. The problem is plaque.


In my posts, I often speak of the power of the smile. Plaque is the smile’s #1 enemy. It is a sticky film of bacteria that covers the teeth. After you eat, the bacteria release acids that attack tooth enamel. And if you eat sugary foods without cleaning well afterword, plaque will thrive on that sugar. The more sugar you eat, the greater the amount of acid is produced in your mouth. As soon as it accumulates, acids will start to break the enamel down, de-mineralizing its protective coating and encouraging cavities to form. 


Plaque’s perilous effects are alarming. The same plaque that is in the teeth is the plaque that travels into the bloodstream and clogs arteries. Too much plaque leads to periodontal disease and gum inflammation, eventually allowing the plaque to travel. I firmly recommend if a patient has extensive plaque buildup and poor periodontal health, a cardiovascular checkup should be recommended and a comprehensive physical with a primary care physician should follow.


Additionally, when plaque stays on teeth, it begins to harden. Long-term plaque eventually turns into calculus or, as it’s more commonly known, tartar. Once plaque attacks the gums, gingivitis sets in and inflames them, causing them to redden and bleed. Since plaque doesn’t stay still, it can creep below the gum line, and once it’s there, it causes the gums to separate from the teeth. This sets the stage for eventual bone and tooth loss.


Battling plaque is so simple, yet the numbers of people who refuse to practice simple ways to combat plaque are staggering. To conquer plaque, a person should brush for about 2 minutes each time. The average American brushes for 38 seconds. Additionally, tackling plaque simply can come down to diet. The best foods to eat are those that are dense and fibrous, such as an apple, because they remove stains and plaque. I also recommend eating alkalizing foods such as spinach, to create a less acidic environment in the mouth.


Ultimately, plaque is easy to control; you just need to know how. In the end, it could save your life.

Added to Dentistry on Thu 06/10/2010