Just as you can never expect the dust in your house to suddenly stop appearing, so you can also never expect your mouth to stop producing plaque.
Your mouth is home to billions of bacteria. Some are good, some are harmless. Very occasionally you will get some that are downright harmful. But one thing is for sure, even though you will swallow billions of them every day in your saliva, and even though you will brush away billions of them too, they will be back.
It’s what bacteria do. They feed and they reproduce. Some of them, like Streptococcus mutans, love to feed on the sugars and starches that remain in your saliva. They are part of the digestive process that starts with using saliva to break down your food in your mouth before swallowing it.
However, as well as feeding and reproducing, Strep. mutans also gives off acids. And the more there is for it to feast on, the more acids it will produce.
As part of the sticky film of plaque on your teeth, what this means is that the film is gently oozing acids directly onto your tooth enamel and your gums. If you leave plaque for more than 3 days, it hardens into a chalky material we call tartar. You can’t brush that away. It sits there, oozing acids. These acids corrode your tooth enamel to create the right conditions for decay. They also attack and inflame the gums, starting the long, slow process of gum disease.
This is why, at the Scottish Centre for Excellence in Dentistry in Glasgow, we are so keen that you keep up good oral hygiene at home and also why we can’t stress enough how important it is to have regular dental hygiene visits. The hygienist has the right tools to remove that chalky tartar and plaque, generally in places you can’t get to so well with a brush or floss. The hygienist can also give you great brushing tips and make sure you are using the best tools for the job.
Please don’t skip the hygiene visits, they are the foundation of good dental health.