What Can I Do to Prevent Dental Plaque on My Teeth?

Did you know that dental plaque – a sticky substance made of bacteria, mucus, and food – is continually forming on our teeth? It’s that slimy coating that you can feel by running your tongue over the front of your teeth. If you don’t remove it with thorough daily brushing and cleaning between teeth, it can damage your teeth and gums.

Most people have heard that sugar causes decay. But what is often not understood is that many other foods – almost all processed foods and many “health foods” – also cause decay. Rice, potatoes, fruits, vegetables, and bread all contain sugar or carbs that can start the process.

Here are four habits you can develop that will help prevent the buildup of dental plaque and damage by bacteria: 

Habit 1: Avoid Sticky, Sugary Food

Pay attention to your diet. Foods that are hard to remove – that cling to your teeth when you chew – are the most harmful. Think sticky candy, granola bars, or even dried fruit like raisins. When you eat these kinds of foods, the sooner you clean your teeth, the less likely you are to develop cavities. Dental plaque uses that sticky debris to create tooth decay. If you can’t always brush or floss after eating, swishing with water helps remove food particles and reduce plaque.

Habit 2: Brush and Floss Every Day

Brushing and flossing are by far the most effective means of removing the food debris and plaque. Unfortunately, many patients do not know how to clean their teeth effectively.  Quickly swishing a brush around with toothpaste on it may make your mouth feel clean (because of the minty toothpaste).  It is well worth it to learn how to brush and floss the right way.  Set a goal of brushing twice a day and flossing before you go to bed at night.

Habit 3: Use a Mouth Rinse

Mouth rinse is NOT the same as a mouthwash. They have two different purposes. Mouthwash freshens your breath. Mouth rinse is an antiseptic that helps prevents plaque buildup. You can protect your teeth by adding a 30-second swish twice each day to your tooth-cleaning routine.

Habit 4: Get Regular Dental Exams

It’s important that you have someone who knows your teeth to evaluate yours. If you see your dentist and dental hygienist on a regular basis, they can look for signs of disease. I recommend that you visit your dentist every six months for an exam and professional cleaning.

If you can put into practice these four habits, you will prevent the buildup of dental plaque and reduce your chances of developing cavities and gum disease. The payoff? Fewer dental problems and a healthy, attractive smile.

Remember, beautiful teeth are healthy teeth!

Dr. Nishan Halim


Nishan Halim, DMD specializes in family and comprehensive dentistry, which is at the heart of this Capitol Hill, Washington DC neighborhood dental center. He is committed to helping all his patients maintain a healthy smile. To find out more, schedule an appointment at your convenience.


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