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Blog

The terms plaque and tartar are often used interchangeably. However, there are a few key differences. It’s a difference that not only affects your teeth but your overall health.

It All Starts With… Eating

Plaque and tartar are issues because most of us enjoy eating. Sometimes three times a day. Or more often.

Eating begins the digestion process. As we chew, saliva mixes with the crushed food to start breaking it down so our body can absorb its nutrients. This is the perfect environment for bacteria to grow. In fact, at this very moment you have over 500 different species waiting for their (your) next meal.

One way to put an end to the creation of plaque and tartar is to stop eating. We don’t recommend that. Instead, there are some simple strategies you can deploy to at least slow the process.

Which Produces Plaque

Plaque is a clear sticky residue that is constantly forming on your teeth throughout the day and night. Plaque begins to develop on our teeth within hours after eating. Food particles, bacteria and saliva all combine to form this colorless film. It’s what makes your teeth feel “dirty” between brushings or upon waking in the morning.

The bacteria in your mouth are having a field day. The result is a variety of acids, which attack your teeth and gums. This is the same bacteria, which if left unchecked, produce gingivitis and cavities.

The key purpose of brushing and flossing is to consistently interrupt this bacterial growth. If it isn’t, it can harden into tartar.

Tartar Beware

When plaque accumulates it can mineralise, causing it to harden within 24 to 72 hours, turning into a substance called tartar or calculus. Tartar tends to bond quite strongly to tooth enamel.

The most prevalent areas where this occurs are adjacent to salivary glands, such as the lower front teeth and the upper molars next to the cheeks.

It’s tough stuff. This hard, crusty material can trap stains, turning yellow or brown. As we age we become more prone to tartar build up. You also have a greater risk of developing tartar if you suffer from dry mouth, have crowded teeth or smoke. About two-thirds of all adults have tartar build up on their teeth.

The inflammation from the bacteria not only becomes gum disease, it can produce an inflammatory effect throughout your body and cardiovascular system.

The best way to fight tartar is to constantly reduce the formation of plaque. Which you can do at home. Once it becomes tartar, you’ll need the help of a dental professional.

All of us experience plaque buildup, regardless of how well we care for our teeth and gums. Even dentists and hygienists. That’s why it’s so important to brush and floss regularly and see us for professional cleanings.

The focus of modern dentistry has been to help patients keep their natural teeth. When there is a choice between “saving” a tooth with a root canal, versus extraction and replacement with an implant, it creates a debate. It can sometimes pit patients against the wisdom of their dentist.

And while this article won’t end this debate, it may shed some light on the pros and cons of each procedure.

Root Canal Basics

Root canal therapy begins by gaining access to the tooth’s interior via a small opening made in its surface. Then, diseased or dead pulp tissue is removed from deep inside the tooth. The “canals” containing the nerve, which extend down into each root is removed, cleaned and disinfected. After being filled with an inert material, the tooth is sealed to help prevent re-infection. Sometimes a crown or “cap” is needed to hold the tooth together and restore normal function.

The success rate for a root canal these days is in the upper 95% to 99% range.

Extraction and Implantation

If a tooth is compromised due to decay or trauma, the damaged tooth may need to be removed. Based on the condition of your jawbone, bone grafting may be necessary. Either way, a metal implant post is positioned in the jaw that will eventually serve as the implanted tooth root. Then we wait for your body to deposit bone to fill in around the post. This can take several months or longer. Your jaw needs to be strong enough to accept the new tooth.

Finally an abutment is placed to accept the artificial tooth and more healing is required.

Pros and Cons to Consider

Every case is different. Making the decision between a root canal and implantation can be complicated. Here are some considerations:

  • There is a chance of infection when embedding a foreign object into a person’s mouth.
  • Natural teeth tend to offer superior biting and chewing function.
  • Implants can cost two to three times as much as a root canal.
  • A root canal can often be completed in a month or less.
  • Implants can take anywhere from five months to a year to complete.

Make an Informed Choice

The decision to choose a root canal or a dental implant is complex. From a clinical perspective our recommendations are based on many factors. We share those factors with our patients and help them reach an informed choice.

You wash your hair. You wash your hands. Should you wash your mouth too?

Like most things, using mouthwash can have pros and cons. And with so many different rinses available, which one is right for you?

The Promises of Using a Mouthwash

Freshen your breath – It’s the most obvious benefit. Who doesn’t like minty fresh breath?

Reduce tooth decay – Some mouthwashes contain sodium fluoride. It helps reduce the cavitation and demineralisation of your teeth.

Lessen gum inflammation – Some ingredients kill bacteria. This can help reduce inflammation. Mouthwashes containing chlorhexidine help reduce periodontitis.

Whiten teeth – Certain mouth rinses promise to give you a brighter and whiter smile. These rinses contain a bleaching agent. Hydrogen peroxide is a popular one. It helps remove stains and whiten teeth with repeated use.

Help prevent gum disease – An antiseptic or anti-plaque mouthwash can help inhibit the growth of bacteria. This can help curb periodontal diseases such as gingivitis. The active ingredients in these mouth rinses may include triclosan and thymol.

Additional Factors to Consider

Link to oral cancer – There’s a debate over rinses that contain alcohol. Alcohol seems to negatively affect the tissues in the mouth. (Be sure to ask us about using oral rinses that contain alcohol.

Mouth irritant – Mouth rinses that contain alcohol often produce a burning effect. The antiseptic properties can be helpful, but can irritate ulcers and canker sores. Which can slow their healing.

Masks bad breath – The “minty fresh breath” is temporary. Mouthwash gives your breath a momentary makeover. Relying on a mouth rinse is like using cologne instead of regular bathing.

Still not sure? Like anything dealing with oral health, we love fielding questions. Especially from interested patients. Ask about our take on mouthwashes by scheduling a checkup today.

Bleeding anywhere in your body isn’t normal. When it occurs after brushing and flossing it means something in your mouth needs attention. But it’s tempting to ignore. After all, there isn’t any pain. But healthy gums shouldn’t bleed easily.

Here’s a checklist of potential causes of bleeding gums arranged in order of increasing concern.

New toothbrush – If you’ve switched from soft to hard bristles, you could experience some bleeding. Get back to using a soft bristle brush. You should see things improve.

Aggressive brushing – Is your brushing technique too forceful? Many believe that harder brushing results in cleaner teeth. Not true. While you need some pressure, think of it more like a gentle massage. If the bristles on your toothbrush appear splayed, you may be pressing too hard.

Flossing changes – If you change the frequency of your flossing, your gums may bleed. If you’re new to flossing, or you miss a day or two, you may see a bit of blood. But it should stop after a day or two. If you have bleeding every time you floss, it may mean you have gingivitis.

Gingivitis – This is the first stage of gum disease. It’s a painless condition in which plaque collects below the gum line. This causes your gums to pull away from your teeth. Which creates pockets that can collect food particles and breed bacteria. Professional cleaning and better oral hygiene can turn things around. If not, the process worsens.

Periodontitis – The plaque has now hardened into tarter. The gums are suffering from a serious infection. There is damage to soft tissue and the bone that support the teeth. The infection can increase inflammation throughout the body. Chronic bad breath, painful chewing and affected teeth can loosen and be lost.

Thankfully, bleeding gums can be prevented. The winning formula is simple:

1. Brush at least twice a day
2. Floss at least once a day
3. Limit snacking between meals
4. Avoid sugary foods and drinks
5. Stop all tobacco use
6. De-stress your life
7. Get regular dental checkups

Put an end to pink in the sink when you brush your teeth. Schedule a visit to our practice. We’ll help identify if your gums are bleeding, what the cause is, and help get it under control.