Plaque, Tartar, and Cavities
On the surface of the teeth there is actually a complicated, harmless biosphere of various bacteria called a biofilm, or plaque. This biofilm is a diverse collection of bacteria colonies, which are attracted to the smooth surface of the teeth. In contrast to mostly all other parts of the body, the teeth do not shed to replace their cells, only shedding once as baby teeth. Around 25, 000 bacteria species may be present in the biofilm; it is speculated that the body allows plaque to build as a way of stopping large amounts of dangerous bacteria from building up on the same surface.
However, this biofilm does not stay harmless for very long. At first, the biofilm is soft enough to scrape or brush off, but after around 10 days sitting on the teeth, plaque becomes calculus, or tartar. Tartar is solid and hard to remove, and while plaque and tartar are on the teeth, different processes and reactions created by the bacteria result in acid that may cause cavities. Tooth decay is the primary danger of plaque and tartar sitting on the teeth.
Saliva makes for an ideal environment for bacterial growth, acting as a pH buffer and keeping the pH around 7. Nutrients are also present in saliva, giving the bacteria food. To help prevent cavities and the damage from plaque buildup, brushing your teeth is essential- saliva cannot penetrate the surface of the biofilm to reduce the acidity.
The following is a short list of oral hygiene habits to reduce acid buildup, plaque, tartar, and cavities:
- Brush your teeth (for plaque removal)
- Cleaning your tongue
- Gum hygiene
- Foods containing beneficial nutrients, like calcium, fluoride, and phosphate.
- Chewing sugar-free gum after eating.
Regular tooth cleanings and checkups will remove tartar and plaque buildup better than you can at home. Getting a dentist’s cleaning two times a year is recommended for sufficient removal of built up tartar. The application of a fluoride treatment is a common dental treatment that will help strengthen your teeth.
Whether you think you have a cavity or want to ask about teeth cleanings, call Dr. Jeffrey Cohen at 626-967-6453 today to schedule an appointment.
The Dental Office of Dr. Cohen is convenient to the Azusa, Covina, El Monte, Glendora, San Dimas, La Verne and West Covina areas.
Dr. Jeffrey L. Cohen, DDS
204 West College Street
Covina, CA 91723