Times of India
11 May 2010
Plaque is one of the most common complaints that often makes people take a trip to the dentists. “Plaque forms when decay–causing bacteria attach to the surface of tooth enamel, forming a sticky film. This can build up and harden around tooth and gum margins. The bacteria living in the plaque release acids that weaken tooth enamel and increase the risk of tooth decay. The bacteria and their acids also raise the risk of gum inflammation,” explain experts at the British Dental Association.
Highlighting a more serious effect of plaque, he adds, “Reducing dental plaque reduces the levels of bacteria in the mouth which, when you have bleeding gums, can get into the blood and increase the risk of atherosclerosis – the narrowing of arteries.”
Bacteria feed on sugary and high carbohydrate foods. Low–sugar diets, containing a balance of complex carbohydrate, proteins and oils, are linked to lower levels of dental plaque. Here’s the lowdown on the best plaque–busters that can help keep your mouth cavity–free.
Choose a toothpaste containing ingredients designed to prevent plaque. An anti–bacterial substance called triclosan in toothpastes claims to reduces plaque. Some others contain a plaque–dissolving formula that breaks the bonds attaching plaque to the tooth surface.
Green tea, red wine and cranberry juice contain substances called polyphenols that reduce plaque–formation and stop cavity–causing bacteria from sticking to teeth. Trials at the University of Rochester Medical Centre in the US found that drinks such as cranberry juice may help wash away up to 50 per cent more cavity–causing bacteria from the mouth. Polyphenols can also help prevent oral bacteria from producing acids that dissolve tooth enamel.
Limit plaque–formation and strengthen teeth. by adding olive oil to salads and cooking. University of Madrid researchers studied the anti–cavity properties of olive oil after discovering that residents of towns where olive oil is manufactured have
uncharacteristically low levels of tooth decay and gum disease. They found out that olive oil contains oleuropein, an anti–bacterial compound that stops ‘gram negative’ bacteria – the type that cause gum disease and bone loss – from attaching to teeth. Olive oil also covers the teeth with a film of fat molecules that prevents plaque from forming. Other dietary fats and oils also help to neutralise acids produced by bacterial plaque.
Plaque–busting gum: Chew on gums containing Xylitol or Sorbitol, sugar substitutes that have a plaque–reducing effect. Xylitol cannot be utilised by oral bacteria and they starve. As the bacteria die off, there is a reduction in decay. A review of studies by the Harvard School of Dental Medicine found that those who chew dental gums regularly have 30 to 60 per cent less decay.
While plaque–reducing toothpastes, gums and drinks can slow the rate of plaque formation, they are unlikely to eliminate it completely. At home, experts recommend regular flossing to clean out food from between teeth. An electric toothbrush will dislodge plaque more effectively than a regular one. However, if it builds up beneath the gums, it raises the risk of gum disease significantly. And the best way to prevent that is by seeing the dentist or dental hygienist who can remove the deposits with specialist equipment.