Dr. Brett L. Johnson

General & Cosmetic Dentistry

The Facts about Plaque and Tooth Decay

Just ask Oregon City family dental provider Dr. Johnson, and he will happily tell you about the importance of brushing and flossing everyday. In our last Newberg Community Dental Blog post, we discussed the proper technique for brushing and flossing your teeth to help remove the buildup of plaque and to prevent tooth decay. You frequently here the terms plaque and tooth decay when the topic of good oral hygiene is discussed, but what exactly do these terms mean? Understanding the consequences of poor dental hygiene can help you appreciate why you need  to brush at least twice a day.

Plaque

A sticky film of bacteria, plaque continuously forms of your teeth, and can cause serious damage if not removed through brushing. Every time the sugar or starches you eat come into contact with plaque, the bacteria produces acids that eats away at your teeth’s enamel. Because of its sticky nature, the plaque holds these acids in contact with your teeth, where it can attack the enamel for at least 20 minutes after each time you eat. Over time, the constant exposure to these acids can weaken the enamel and cause tooth decay.

Since plaque releases acids after each time you eat, continuous snacking throughout the day causes repeated attacks against your teeth’s enamel. Less damage occurs to your teeth when eating a larger meal, because the amount of saliva produced helps wash away some of the acid on your teeth. Cutting back on snacking, or drinking plenty of water after snacking, can help reduce your risk of tooth decay. If you can’t help but snack, try eating foods that contain less sugar, such as fruit or yogurt.

Tooth Decay

So now we understand what plaque is, and how it can negatively harm your teeth, but what do we mean by tooth decay. Your teeth consist of a hard outer shell, enamel, and a not completely solid substance underneath called dentin. When the acids released by plaque eat away at your teeth’s enamel, the weaker dentin becomes exposed. The exposure of dentin to bacteria can lead to an infection that causes a demineralization and destruction of the organic matter of your teeth.

When the demineralization of your teeth becomes excessive, the organic matter in your teeth begins to breakdown, causing cavities (also known as dental carries) to form. Slight tooth decay might be reversible with the treatment of fluoride, but to repair mild tooth decay, Dr. Johnson could need to fill the cavity. More serious forms of tooth decay could require a root canal or a crown. In some severe cases, the tooth may have to be removed. Tooth decay can also lead to more serious oral health problems such as gum disease and root decay.

Now that you understand a little more about plaque and tooth decay, you can take comfort knowing that both can easily be prevent by practicing good oral hygiene. Brushing and flossing, along with regular checkups, will help ensure your smile remains bright and brilliant for years to come. If you have any questions about the causes of tooth decay, just ask Dr. Johnson during your next appointment.

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