Smile Style

23rd October 2009

Jasme Shah, of Apple Dental Studios in Pinner,
talks tartar, plaque and periodontal disease, and
makes the case for regular appointments with a
hygienist as well as a dentist…

When you hear the terms ‘tartar’ and ‘plaque’, do you think they’re interchangeable? If you do, you’re not alone – but you are wrong. They’re closely related, but they’re not the same.

Plaque is a sticky and fairly transparent film that forms on the teeth, and is primarily composed of undigested food particles mixed with saliva and bacteria. Tartar is formed when minerals such as calcium in the saliva combine with plaque and make it hard. This happens commonly behind the lower front teeth and upper back teeth. Once tartar is formed, it will need to be removed, preferably by the hygienist. Regular check-up and hygiene appointments are necessary to prevent this build-up becoming a problem…

…and leading to periodontal disease, the inflammation of the tissues that support teeth and attach them to the jaw. Periodontal disease starts when plaque develops on the teeth, and toxins produced by bacteria begin to inflame the gums. When this involves only the soft gum tissue it’s called gingivitis, and it’s a cause of bad breath. If it’s not treated within a short period of time, the inflammation can spread down below the gum level, where it results in the formation of ‘pockets’ and bone destruction. When it reaches the bone, it’s called periodontitis, and it’s both unpleasant and dangerous. As more bone is destroyed, the tooth begins to loosen; as the pockets around it get deeper, abscesses can occur.

There is a cure… your dentist or hygienist can remove deposits from the pockets around the affected teeth, by scaling and root planing. It may require several appointments. As the roots of teeth become clean, though, the gums will tighten up around the root surfaces and loose teeth may also become firmer.

Trying to prevent this happening is one of the reasons why hygiene visits are so worthwhile.

Of course, dental care doesn’t take place only in the surgery. Flossing, which can be easily done at home, is one of the most important aids to the removal of plaque from between the teeth. The dentist or hygienist can advise you how best to floss, and which other useful plaque-clearing tools can help prevent gum disease. One simple but helpful (even essential) habit is to use a mouth rinse, which will help control the plaque and reduce any inflammation and bleeding. The dentist or hygienist will be able to recommend the best mouth rinse for your problem.

The best way to avoid tooth decay is to brush your teeth twice daily. Thoroughly. Effectively. Check it out by using a disclosing tablet which shows up remaining plaque. Use a toothpaste with appropriate levels of fluoride, and a medium tooth brush. Brush in a set pattern so that you don’t miss any teeth. Reduce sugary snacks – especially between meals.

One of the most important things to do is to you keep your regular appointments with the dentist and hygienist to ensure that none of the above mentioned problems will occur – or that if they do, they’re quickly resolved.

It’s not just about clean teeth and a nice smile, however. Current scientific studies link poor dental health with a surprising range of medical conditions, including stroke, diabetes, coronary heart disease, premature and low birth weight babies, and miscarriages.

Visiting your dentist and hygienist regularly is a simple, cost-effective and pain-free way of maintaining good dental health and reducing risks of other medical conditions.

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