Dental Plaque and Tooth Decay

or

Why You Might Want to Start Flossing

OK. Let's go ahead and get it out there, most people don't floss. A lot of the people who do floss, don't do it every day, and some people just floss the week before their cleaning appointment in hopes that they can fool the dentist and dental hygienist (they usually can't).

 
 
 Dental plaque made visible with disclosing solution. This was missed with toothbrush and floss.

Dental plaque made visible with disclosing solution. This was missed with toothbrush and floss.

Why would anyone want to floss anyway? It is a hassle, and the gums bleed and get sore and puffy.

Here is a good reason. Dental Plaque, that white cheesy stuff that forms on teeth and builds up between teeth and in the crevice between the teeth and gums, is a living family of bacteria. If all of it is removed in a dental cleaning, new plaque will form in 24 hours. This bacterial plaque, like all living organisms must eat to survive. It loves fermentable carbohydrates, also known as sugars.

It does not matter where the sugar molecule comes from. It could be from vegetables, fruits, candy bars, soft drinks, or practically anything we eat...it just must be a sugar. When the plaque first contacts and begins to digest a sugar, the byproduct is an acid. This acid is held in the plaque until approximately one hour after the last contact with the sugar. Since the plaque is touching the tooth, enamel is under attack from acids all this time.


Cavities

Eventually the acids will decalcify the enamel and create a hole or cavity. The toothbrush cannot get all the way between the teeth, and plaque accumulates in the area where teeth contact each other. The best way to clean those areas is to floss.

 Decay between the teeth, caused by not flossing.

Decay between the teeth, caused by not flossing.


 Cervical decay caused by not brushing well along the gumline.

Cervical decay caused by not brushing well along the gumline.

 

The bacterial plaque can cause decay at the base of the tooth along the gumline, if it is not thoroughly brushed away. The bacterial plaque also causes inflammation of the gums, bleeding after brushing and flossing, and an unpleasant odor in the mouth. Removing plaque by brushing and flossing daily will stop the inflammation, bleeding, and decalcification of tooth structure.

Now if that does not motivate you to floss, think of it this way: You have a family of germs that lives in your mouth, eats sugar, and poops acid on your teeth. 

If you remove the plaque by thoroughly brushing and flossing, it cannot poop acid on your teeth.

Floss your teeth every day.