Being Mindful of Plaque's 12-Hour "Grace Period"
An overview of plaque, tartar, gingivitis, periodontal disease and how to be mindful of their impact on our oral health. Plus, how The Gleamery can help you alleviate the pressure of having perfectly polished oral care habits.
Scroll down to the bottom for tips to help refine your oral care routine!
Plaque—how it begins
Plaque is a big colony of bacteria that lives on our teeth and feeds off of the food we put into our mouth. After plaque forms their colonies, they start building a protective fortress by producing proteins that create a shell around their colony. These proteins have an electric charge, which allows them to chemically bond to the teeth - this creates a film on our teeth that is hard to remove.
As we salivate, our saliva brings minerals into our mouth, such as calcium and phosphorus. These minerals are intended for our teeth but the protein has a stronger charge than the tooth, which causes the calcium to stick to the plaque and not the teeth.
Plaque, tartar—and the 12 hour “grace period”
It takes most of us 12 hours to reach a threshold point where you can still brush the plaque off, but it takes more effort and better technique to remove the plaque and clean properly. After 24 hours, the plaque becomes as hard as bone and chemically bonds to the teeth. This is called tartar.
Gingivitis—our gums respond
Once the tartar forms on your teeth, you can’t get it off. It sits all day, every day and is very irritating to your gums. Our gums respond the same way our skin would to a foreign body - swelling, bleeding, and infections can occur. The initial inflammation and infection is gingivitis. As long as you treat gingivitis in a timely manner to get rid of the irritants and bacteria, the gums heal; gingivitis is considered to be a reversible condition. If you don’t treat it in time, the gingivitis starts to spread and chronic inflammation occurs which can be very damaging.
Teeth sit inside sockets in your jaw bone and little ligaments hold the teeth in place. Those ligaments are like shock absorbers, they help your teeth move as we chew. If inflammation from the gums is not treated, it starts to spread down and causes things to break down starting with the ligaments and followed by the jawbone. Once the jawbone is affected, that is called periodontal disease and is irreversible because we can’t grow bone or ligaments back. According to research, losing too much bone in and around your mouth is the #1 cause of tooth loss.
Why should you care about keeping your teeth clean and healthy?
Oral health has a direct correlation to your overall health. Researchers are finding that mouth bacteria is causing systemic issues throughout the body; everything from diabetes to arthritis to Alzheimer's and dementia.
Think of it like this - our skin protects us from bacteria in the world, but if our gums are infected, bacteria and other harmful issues have direct access to the bloodstream.
Don’t worry, it is all preventable; make sure to get plaque off thoroughly and regularly so it doesn’t spread down to the bone - see below for tips on how to improve your oral health!
Tips to help you refine your oral care routine!
Flossing (with woven floss to help grab and remove plaque from the teeth)
Brushing your teeth at a 45 degree angle towards the gums - preferably with an electric toothbrush
Using Waterpik to get the hard to reach areas - a toothbrush can clean up to 2mm below your gum and floss can clean up to 3mm, whereas WaterPik can clean up to 6mm (Be sure to watch the how-to video on Waterpik's website - it can potentially harm your gums if used incorrectly.)
Additional cleaning visits at The Gleamery to supplement cleaning and exams at the dentist—a total of 4 times or more (about every 3 months) is ideal for most people
As told by Gleamery Hygienist, Stephen Quimby, RDH
Transcribed and edited by Karley Hecht
Tags: teeth cleaning, plaque, gingivitis, periodontal disease, waterpik, water flossers, supplemental dental cleanings, proactive dental care, preventative dental, oral care habits, better dental care, saliva