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Plaque Attack? Let’s Fight Back!

October 13th, 2021

Plaque is a sticky subject! It sticks to the enamel of our teeth above and below the gum line, and it collects around braces. Plaque is one of the major causes of tooth decay and gum disease, and our teeth are under daily attack by this filmy menace.

What are the facts about plaque, and how can we fight back? Read on for some effective strategies!

What Is Plaque?

Plaque is a sticky film that builds up on our teeth, largely made up of millions of different types of oral bacteria. Plaque is a colorless biofilm at first, but as it collects, it takes on a white or yellow tint. If you haven’t brushed for a few days, that fuzziness you feel on your teeth is plaque build-up. Unless it’s removed, plaque hardens within a matter of days to become tartar.

  • Tip: You can remove plaque with careful brushing and flossing, but it takes a dental professional to remove tartar. Be proactive!

Why Does Plaque Cause Cavities?

Bacteria in plaque use our food as their food, especially sugars and carbs. They can then transform these nutrients into acids, which attack our tooth enamel, weakening it and leaving it vulnerable to further erosion and eventual decay.

  • Tip: Cavities aren’t the only damage caused by accumulated plaque. Plaque also collects along and below the gum line. If tartar forms here, it irritates delicate gum tissue, leading to gingivitis and more serious gum disease. Make sure you don’t forget your gums when you brush and floss.

When Does Plaque Build Up?

The short answer? Plaque is always forming, because oral bacteria are a natural part of our biology. (In fact, there are even oral bacterial which are beneficial.) Plaque starts building up within minutes after eating, and during the night as we sleep.

That’s why we recommend brushing for two minutes at least twice a day, and flossing at least once a day. When you wear braces or aligners, brushing more often is a good idea. Food collecting around braces or inside aligners is a feast for plaque! Ask Dr. Daniel George and Dr. Cadie George for suggestions for your best brushing schedule.

  • Tip: Just because plaque is unavoidable, that doesn’t mean we need to give the bacteria in plaque any additional encouragement. Every time you have a meal or a snack that’s heavy in carbs and sugars, you are providing more fuel for acid production. Cutting down on foods like sugary desserts and sodas is not only nutrition-healthy, it’s tooth-healthy!

Where Does Plaque Collect?

Plaque builds up all over tooth surfaces, at the gum line, and even below the gum line. It’s especially easy to miss in hard-to-reach places like the irregular surfaces of molars, between the teeth, behind our front teeth, and near the gum line. Plaque also collects around your braces, and requires special care to make sure your teeth don’t suffer cavities or the white spots caused by demineralization.

  • Tip: One of the ways plaque avoids detection is its invisibility. Fortunately, if you’re having trouble brushing away all your plaque, there are plaque-disclosing toothpastes and chewable tablets available in the dental aisle which reveal the plaque hiding between, behind, or around your teeth by tinting it with a can’t-miss color. Just brush the color away, and you’ve brushed the plaque away as well.

How Do We Clean Away Plaque?

Use the Right Tools

Floss at least once a day. There are different materials, sizes, and coatings for floss, so you can find one that’s comfortable for you. Floss reaches those spots in between teeth and around the gum line that brushes miss.

Choose a soft toothbrush (soft bristles are better for your enamel) and change it every three to four months, or as soon as the bristles show wear. Make sure the head is the right size—too big, and it’s not only uncomfortable, but you won’t be able to reach all the surfaces you need to.

  • Tips: There are special dental flosses created just for your braces. You can also use interproximal brushes water flosser to clean around wires and brackets. If you have trouble removing plaque around your teeth and braces with a manual toothbrush, consider an electric model. Several studies have shown a reduction in plaque with the use of an electric brush.

Use the Right Toothpaste

There are many toothpastes specifically formulated to fight plaque and tartar. And fluoride toothpastes not only fight cavities, they can strengthen your enamel.

  • Tip: Studies have shown that toothpastes with baking soda, in particular, are effective in reducing plaque. Ask Dr. Daniel George and Dr. Cadie George for a recommendation the next time you’re at our Holland, MI office.

Use the Right Technique

What not to do?  A forceful, horizontal sawing motion is awkward, hard on your enamel, and misses plaque and debris between the teeth. Technique is important—not for style points, but for cleaner teeth!

Hold your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle, especially at the gum line, to gently remove plaque from teeth and gums. Use short strokes or a circular motion to clean as much of the surface and between the teeth as possible. Brush the inside of your front teeth with careful vertical strokes—remember, that’s one place where plaque is easy to overlook. The same holds true for the tops of your molars, so thoroughly clean those uneven surfaces.

If you wear braces, be sure to clean thoroughly around brackets and wires, where plaque can accumulate quickly.

  • Tip: If you wear clear aligners, don’t forget to give them a gentle brushing as well! Plaque can stick to aligners, causing discoloration and odors, so follow our cleaning instructions carefully.

Who Can Help You Fight Plaque?

Even when you do your best at home, plaque can still be a sticky problem. That’s why we advise regular professional cleanings, which not only remove any plaque that’s hiding away, but also eliminate any built-up tartar around your braces. And, of course, there you can learn all about how to keep your teeth their cleanest.

True, you’re fighting plaque every day, but you have all the tools you need to make sure your teeth and gums stay healthy. You’re winning the battle with plaque every time you eat a nutritious meal, and every time you brush and floss. With that kind of strategy, plaque doesn’t stand a chance. And your bright smile and healthy teeth and gums? That’s a victory worth celebrating!

My toothbrush did what?

October 6th, 2021

If you were to put your toothbrush bristles under a high-powered microscope, what you would see might give you nightmares: millions of bacteria, busily crawling up and down your toothbrush bristles, consuming proteins that came from your mouth, and still clinging to the bristles even after you’ve rinsed them with water.

Rinsing your toothbrush after brushing removes some of those ferociously hungry bacteria, but not all. The American Dental Association says that bacterial infestations develop on toothbrushes within a month of daily use. The ADA also states that unless a toothbrush is sterilized before being packaged, it’s going to come with bacteria – free of charge!

Germs and Frayed Bristles: the Demise of a Toothbrush

Dr. Daniel George and Dr. Cadie George and our staff recommend that you toss your old toothbrush in the trash and purchase a new one every three months. Children tend to bite on their toothbrushes, which makes the bristles degrade and fray faster. Chances are kids may need to have their toothbrushes changed more frequently.

Where do they hide?

Bacteria are tenacious little germs that head for those concealed areas between toothbrush bristles. They are highly adaptable and exist in every type of extreme environment. Some people actually go so far as to put their toothbrush in a microwave for a few seconds to kill germs, but this doesn't always work either. In fact, you may only end up with a toothbrush that’s as bendable as a Gumby doll – and still covered with germs.

Feed a Cold, Starve a Fever, and Get Rid of Your Toothbrush

When you have a head cold, your mouth is teeming with bacteria gleefully roaming around, and gobbling mucus and dead skin cells. If you brush your teeth while suffering a sinus condition, the brush will act like a magnet for ravenous bacteria. Use your old toothbrush while you are sick, but as soon as you feel better, throw it away and get a new one. Otherwise you could possibly re-infect yourself with the same cold germs!

Don't brush after EVERY meal!

September 29th, 2021

This may come as a surprise, but brushing your teeth right after a meal can be one of the worst things you can do for your healthy teeth. A toothbrush can be considered an assault weapon against your smile if used immediately after eating certain foods.

Enamel is like the tooth’s shield. It is a hard mineral exterior on each of your teeth. In reality, enamel is the hardest part of the human body—even stronger than bone! I like to regard it as a “super-structure.” But every superhero has a weakness, and enamel’s kryptonite is acid.

A healthy tooth lives in a mouth that has a proper pH balance. When that balance tips from alkaline to acidic, a harmful process called demineralization begins. Demineralization occurs when acids attack and soften the tooth surface. Pores and fissures form and harmful bacteria move in.

With each bite of food or drink, our mouth pH fluctuates. Highly acidic foods tip the balance of your mouth from a healthy alkaline to a dangerous acid. Here are some examples of those sources of acid: citrus fruits, soda, and sugary foods. There are certainly many others, but these are the most common.

So how does brushing your teeth immediately after a meal make this process even worse?

After eating highly acidic foods, your teeth are susceptible to damage. When you brush your teeth in this weakened state you are actually damaging your enamel. The abrasive bristles of the brush wear away the protective surface of the teeth. You should avoid brushing for at least an hour, or take other, simple preventive measures immediately following a meal.

First, rinse with or drink clear water. Then chew some sugarless gum. Both of these practices will produce saliva, restore a healthy pH level in your mouth, and coat your teeth with nourishing minerals. Out of all the sugarless gums available, the best of the best are those that list xylitol as the first ingredient. Another option is to consume cheese, milk, or another non-acidic food or drink to conclude your meal.

After you have given your mouth time to return to a healthy pH, feel free to brush your teeth. Just keep in mind that any time you eat acidic foods, you weaken your teeth. Make sure not to worsen the problem by brushing immediately after dining and damaging your teeth even more. Questions? Call us at Dr. George Orthodontics.

Oral Health Tips: Travel Edition

September 15th, 2021

When you leave on a trip, you probably double-check that evrything’s ready: your clothes are packed, your ticket is handy, and your passport waits patiently on top of your bag or in a special pocket.

The same level of preparedness should apply with regard to caring for your oral health when you’re about to leave home for a while. Whether you’re jumping in the car for a weekend camping trip or flying halfway across the globe for a longer stint, the tips below will help you keep your teeth healthy whil you’re away.

Prepare Ahead of Time

The key to maintaining good oral hygiene during travel is preparation. Schedule a regular dental appointment so your teeth are freshly cleaned and ready before you leave. This can identify potential issues that might cause problems while you’re away.

If you have any items on a dental “to-do” list, such as wisdom tooth removal, replacement of a filling, or orthodontic adjustment, it’s a good idea to get those procedures completed before your trip.

En Route

If you’re stuck on a long flight or trekking far into the woods, you might find yourself where there’s no sink or even a toothbrush at hand. We speak for everyone when we say that nothing is worse than a mouth that feels, shall we say, less than fresh.

A lemon wedge or Granny Smith apple slice can help freshen up your breath when you’re in need of a quick fix. Rinsing your mouth thoroughly with water can help to wash away bacteria that causes cavities and reduce that gritty sensation. If you’ve got toothpaste, put a dot on your finger or a damp washcloth to serve as a makeshift toothbrush.

Nowadays, travel-sized dental products are available at most grocery stores and pharmacies. You can find travel toothbrushes, mini mouthwashes, and pocket-sized floss to slip into your travel bag.

Colgate makes disposable mini-toothbrushes called Wisps that can help you freshen up when you may not have access to a regular toothbrush. Packing a few extra dental supplies may also be a good idea in case one gets damaged or lost.

At Your Destination

Traveling abroad can expose you to unfamiliar conditions. Some countries have compromised water sources that will make you extremely ill if ingested, even from the tiny amount of water with which you wet your toothbrush.

Minimize that risk and keep bottles of water on hand instead for rinsing your mouth and toothbrush. If your toothbrush comes in contact with contaminated water, swapping it out for a new one is the safest option.

Storing your toothbrush properly is necessary to prevent bacteria from growing on it. Place your brush in a Ziploc bag when you’re on the go and allow it to breathe once you get to a temporary destination.

Traveling near or far should be an enjoyable experience. Dental issues shouldn’t be a source of worry on your vacation. As long as you’re prepared and take precautions, your teeth can stay healthy even when they’re out of the country!

Of course, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact our Holland, MI office.