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Plaque — What It Is And How To Get Rid Of It

People used to think that as you got older you naturally lost your teeth. We now know that’s not true. By following easy steps for keeping your teeth and gums healthy – plus seeing your dentist regularly — you can have your teeth for a lifetime!

Plaque: What is it?

Plaque is made up of invisible masses of harmful germs that live in the mouth and stick to the teeth.

  • Some types of plaque cause tooth decay
  • Other types of plaque cause gum disease

Red, puffy or bleeding gums can be the first signs of gum disease. If gum disease is not treated, the tissues holding the teeth in place are destroyed and the teeth are eventually lost.

Dental plaque is difficult to see unless it’s stained. You can stain plaque by chewing red “disclosing tablets,” found at grocery stores and drug stores, or by using a cotton swab to smear green food coloring on your teeth. The red or green color left on the teeth will show you where there is still plaque—and where you have to brush again to remove it. Stain and examine your teeth regularly to make sure you are removing all plaque.

Ask your dentist or dental hygienist if your plaque removal techniques are okay.

Step One: Floss

Use floss to remove germs and food particles between teeth. Rinse.

Holding floss. Using floss between upper teeth. Using floss between lower teeth.

NOTE! Ease the floss into place gently. Do not snap it into place — this could harm your gums.

Step Two: Brush Teeth

Use any tooth brushing method that is comfortable, but do not scrub hard back and forth. Small circular motions and short back and forth motions work well. Rinse.

To prevent decay, it’s what’s on the toothbrush that counts. Use fluoride toothpaste. Fluoride is what protects teeth from decay.

Brush the tongue for a fresh feeling! Rinse again.
Remember: food residues, especially sweets, provide nutrients for the germs that cause tooth decay, as well as those that cause gum disease. That’s why it is important to remove all food residues, as well as plaque, from teeth. Remove plaque at least once a day — twice a day is better. If you brush and floss once daily, do it before going to bed.

Another way of removing plaque between teeth is to use a dental pick — a thin plastic or wooden stick. These sticks can be purchased at drug stores and grocery stores.

National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research

National Oral Health Information Clearinghouse
1 NOHIC Way
Bethesda, MD 20892-3500
301-402-7364
nohic@nidcr.nih.gov
www.nidcr.nih.gov

This publication is no longer available in print. It is not copyrighted. Make as many photocopies as you need.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
National Institutes of Health
NIH Publication No. 99-3245


Copyright © 2002, 2003 Colgate-Palmolive Company. All rights reserved.

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