Our Blog

Just What Is Plaque?

October 28th, 2020

From the time you were small, you’ve been warned about the dangers of plaque. Why? Because:

  • It’s an unpleasant film that sticks to your teeth
  • It causes cavities
  • It causes gum disease
  • It can cause extra problems when you wear braces

And really, do we need to know much more than this to motivate us to brush? But if you’re in a curious mood, you might be wondering just how this soft, fuzzy film accomplishes all that damage. Let’s take a closer look at the sticky problem of plaque.

How does plaque form?

We live with hundreds of species of oral bacteria, most of which are harmless, and some of which are actually beneficial. But when our oral ecosystem gets out of balance, problems can occur. For example, without regular and thorough brushing and flossing, we start to build up plaque.

Plaque starts forming within hours of your last brushing. And even though plaque fits the very definition of “seems to appear overnight,” this biofilm is actually a complex microbial community with several different stages of development.

  • It starts with saliva.

Saliva is vital to our oral health, because it keeps us hydrated, washes away food particles, neutralizes acids in the mouth, and provides minerals which keep our enamel strong. Saliva also contains proteins, which help form a healthy, protective film on the tooth surface. This film is called a pellicle.

  • Bacteria attach to the pellicle.

There are species of oral bacteria that are able to attach themselves to the pellicle film within hours of its formation. As they become more firmly attached, they begin to grow and divide to form colonies, and are known as the early colonizers of the plaque biofilm.

  • A complex biofilm forms.

If you’ve skipped brushing for a few days (please don’t!), you’ll notice a fuzzy, sometimes discolored film on your enamel—that’s a thriving plaque community, and it only takes a matter of days to go from invisible to unpleasant.

If you’re not removing plaque regularly, it can harden further and become tartar. And once you have tartar buildup, you’ll need the care of a dental professional to remove it.

  • What happens if we ignore plaque and tartar?

We get cavities and gum disease.

How does plaque cause cavities?

  • The bacteria in plaque, like all organisms, need nutrients.

Our normal oral environment and the food in our everyday diets provide the nutrients plaque needs. And, as we mentioned above, certain types of oral bacteria convert these nutrients into acids. Foods such as carbohydrates, starches, and sugars are most easily converted into acids, which is why we recommend that you enjoy them in moderation.

  • The biofilm promotes acid production.

Within the plaque film, anaerobic bacteria (bacteria which don’t use oxygen) convert sugars and starches into acids. As the plaque film becomes denser, it blocks acid-neutralizing saliva and oxygen from reaching these bacteria close to the tooth’s surface, creating an ideal environment for the bacteria to produce their acid waste products.

  • Acids attack enamel.

The sticky nature of plaque keeps these acids in contact with tooth enamel, where, over time, acids dissolve minerals in enamel, weakening the mineral structure of the tooth.

How does plaque cause gum disease?

  • Bacteria cause inflammation and gingivitis.

The bacteria in plaque irritate the delicate tissue of the gums, which causes an inflammation response which can leave your gums swollen, red, bleeding, or tender. This early form of gum disease is gingivitis. Fortunately, good dental care and careful brushing and flossing can usually prevent and even eliminate gingivitis.

  • Plaque and tartar can lead to periodontitis.

When plaque and tartar build up around and below the gumline, the gums pull away from the teeth, leaving pockets where bacteria collect, leading to infection as well as inflammation. Infections and constant inflammation not only harm gum tissue, they can destroy the bone supporting the teeth. This serious gum condition is periodontitis, and should be treated immediately to avoid further infection and even tooth loss.

How does plaque affect orthodontic patients?

  • Plaque collects around your braces.

Braces provide plenty of spots for plaque to hide from your brush. If you aren’t extremely diligent with your brushing and flossing, plaque collects near brackets, wires, and bands—all those spots that a brush and floss find difficult to reach.

  • Plaque promotes demineralization

The demineralization process we mentioned above can cause white spots on teeth (decalcification), where minerals have dissolved. Sometimes these spots can be treated, and sometimes they are permanent. They can become quite sensitive, and may lead to cavities.

Careful brushing and flossing around your braces will help eliminate the plaque that can cause demineralization near brackets. Ask Dr. Hanachi about the tools and the brushing and flossing techniques which will give you the best results.

How do we fight plaque?

From the time you were small, you’ve learned how to fight plaque:

  • Brush at least twice a day for two minutes, and be sure to brush all of your tooth surfaces and around the gumline.
  • Floss to remove plaque from between the teeth and near the gumline.
  • See your dentist as recommended for a thorough professional cleaning.

Be proactive. If you have any questions, talk to us at our Gastonia or Mooresville, NC office about the best way to keep plaque at bay. We can show you the most effective ways to brush and floss, recommend anti-plaque toothpastes and rinses, even suggest plaque-revealing tablets if you’re missing some trouble spots.

We’ve only brushed up on some plaque basics, because there is a lot more to discover about this complex biofilm. Happily, even with all there is to learn about plaque’s growth and development, it’s reassuring to know that getting rid of it is quite simple—with just a soft-bristled brush, some dental floss, and a few minutes of your time each day, you’re on the way to a healthy, happy, plaque-free smile.

Planning Your Vegetarian Diet with Your Oral Health in Mind

October 21st, 2020

If you’ve been following a vegetarian or vegan diet, you know that there’s much more to living a healthy life than simply avoiding meat products. Making sure your diet includes enough protein, as well as any nutrients that are primarily available in animal products, takes planning, and there’s no one-menu-fits-all solution.

Why? Because there’s no one menu that will suit all vegetarians. Specific vegetarian diets can allow for many different options:

  • Vegan—a plant-based diet which excludes meat, fish, dairy, and egg products
  • Ovo-vegetarian—includes eggs as a dietary option, but no dairy
  • Lacto-vegetarian— includes dairy as a dietary option, but no eggs
  • Lacto-ovo-vegetarian—a meat-free diet which allows both dairy products and eggs

If you are a pescatarian, who eats fish on occasion, or a flexitarian, who sometimes includes meat in a meal, your menu options are even broader.

So let’s look at the big picture—a healthy vegetarian diet is really more concerned with the foods you do eat for nutrition rather than the foods you don’t. You can create a meal plan rich in all your essential nutrients with a little research, no matter which type of vegetarian diet is your go-to choice.

And while you’re constructing your ideal menu guidelines, don’t forget about your dental nutrition!

In terms of keeping your teeth and gums their healthiest, what important vitamins and minerals are often missing from vegetarian and vegan diets? Let’s look at three of them.

  • Calcium

Calcium is essential for maintaining strong bones and tooth enamel. Without enough calcium, a weakened jawbone leads to loose, and even lost, teeth. The acids in our food and the acids created by oral bacteria also weaken the minerals in enamel, including calcium. These weak spots can eventually become cavities. A diet rich in calcium not only supports the bones holding our teeth, but can even help repair, or remineralize, enamel which has been weakened by acidic erosion.

For vegetarians who include dairy in their diets, dairy products are a great way to include calcium. Milk, cheese, and yogurt are traditional and rich sources of this mineral.

For vegans, it’s a bit more challenging, but still doable! Non-dairy foods providing calcium include dark green vegetables (kale, broccoli, spinach), certain types of tofu, and fortified cereals, juices, and non-dairy milks.

  • Vitamin D

Now you’re ready to put that calcium to work by making sure you have enough vitamin D in your diet. Vitamin D not only helps keep our bones healthy, it also enables our bodies to absorb calcium. Bonus—it’s been linked to better gum health in several studies.

So how to get more vitamin D? If you eat dairy, most dairy products have been fortified with vitamin D. If eggs are a part of your diet, egg yolks are a great source. Pescatarians can enjoy the benefits of vitamin D from fatty fish such as tuna and salmon.

Because we get most of our vitamin D from sun exposure or foods derived from animals, plant-based foods are not a practical way to obtain the vitamin D you need. But, just as non-vegetarians can get plentiful vitamin D from fortified dairy products, vegans also have options. Try adding cereals, juices, and non-dairy milks fortified with this essential nutrient to your diet, or take a vegan vitamin D supplement.

  • Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is essential for healthy red blood cells, nerve cell development, brain function, and DNA production. (This is why it’s especially important for pregnant and nursing women.) Vitamin B12 can also impact your oral health. A B12 deficiency can cause a swollen, sore, or inflamed tongue, loss of taste, and gum, tongue, and mouth ulcers.

Unfortunately, vitamin B12 is reliably found only in animal foods and nutritional yeasts. If you would prefer an egg-free and dairy-free diet, look to B12 supplements or B12-fortified cereals, plant-based milks, energy bars, and other vegan options. This is a good subject to discuss with your physician, because even supplements and fortified foods might not provide enough B12.

In fact, Dr. Hanachi can be vital resources when you’re planning your healthiest vegetarian diet. The next time you visit our Gastonia or Mooresville, NC office, ask for recommendations for supplements if you’re concerned that diet alone can’t provide for all of your nutrition essentials. Finally, care should be taken to ensure that, even with supplements, you get the proper amount of the vitamins and minerals you need.

As a vegetarian, you are used to the concept of care. Whether it was concern for nutrition, the planet, the animal world, or another reason that drew you to a vegetarian diet, be sure to care for your body as well as your dietary choices. Careful planning can ensure a diet which supports not only your general health, but your oral health, for a lifetime of nourishing—and well-nourished—smiles.

Tips for Keeping Your Breath Fresh While You’re in Braces

October 14th, 2020

You’ve got a lot going on in your busy life, and whether it’s school, practice, or simply socializing, you want to put a confident face forward. And part of that confidence comes from knowing your breath is its freshest!

Too often, though, this time of your life makes that goal seem difficult. Let’s look at ways to keep you smiling your brightest and feeling your freshest in any social setting.

  • Watch Your Diet

Sure, garlic, onions, and other pungent food choices are obvious culprits when it comes to bad breath, but did you know that sugars and simple carbs are the food of choice for the bacteria that cause decay, gingivitis, and bad breath? Eating a nutritious, braces-friendly diet will help keep your mouth, your braces, and your breath healthy.

And it’s not just what you eat. Dehydration also causes bad breath. But those caffeinated drinks and sodas that keep you going through the day are the source of acids and sugars that contribute to tooth decay, gum disease, and less-than-fresh breath. Water, milk, and healthy smoothies are a great way to stay hydrated, add vitamins and minerals to your diet, and go easy on your braces.          

  • Keep Up with Oral Hygiene

It’s hard to keep your teeth and gums their cleanest when it seems like you’re always on the go, but good oral habits are just as important now as they were when you were younger.

Brushing after every meal and snack and flossing daily will help get rid of the bacteria and plaque, which lead to cavities. Our tongues also harbor the bacteria that cause bad breath, so finish off your routine with a gentle brush of the tongue, or try a tongue scraper.

Flossing helps keep gums healthy, which, in turns, keeps your breath healthy as well. Dentists generally suggest flossing once a day, but wearing braces could require flossing more often to make sure you’re getting rid of all those food particles that can become trapped in brackets and wires. Studies have suggested that hormonal changes in teenagers can mean your gums are more at risk for periodontal problems, which can also lead to bad breath, so don’t neglect your gum health!

And be sure to make room in your schedule for regular checkups and cleanings. Your dentist and hygienist will let you know if you’re on track for healthy teeth and gums and fresh breath.

  • Wearing Braces?

Part of careful brushing and flossing means getting to all those places in your braces which trap food particles. Besides being a source of unpleasant odors, food particles lead to plaque buildup and tooth decay, another cause of bad breath.

Dr. Hanachi can suggest the best methods for keeping your braces their cleanest—even in hard to reach spots—with suggestions for brushing and flossing techniques. We can also suggest the best and easiest-to-use products for your particular braces, and recommend or prescribe antibacterial mouthwashes.

  • Wearing Aligners?

Aligners are removed before you eat, so it’s easy to forget that they also need attention. Follow instructions given at our Gastonia or Mooresville, NC office for daily cleaning to prevent saliva and plaque from sticking to your aligners and causing odors. And always remember to brush before you replace aligners after eating a meal or even snacking—otherwise, you’re just trapping the food particles that cause cavities or odors next to your teeth.

You’ve got a lot going on in your busy life, and the last thing you need to worry about is fresh breath. Keep up with your solid dental routines, make sure your braces or aligners are clean and plaque-free, and show the world your healthiest, freshest, most confident smile.

Don’t let braces ruin your Halloween

October 7th, 2020

Halloween is a time to enjoy delicious candies you might avoid the rest of the year. Youngsters who get to dress up and ask for sweet treats out trick-or-treating cherish this holiday.

If you have braces on, Dr. Hanachi would like you still to have fun and celebrate Halloween this year!

It’s easy to get carried away on Halloween by eating too much candy at once. Most parents try to prevent the all-too-common sugar high their kids experience on Halloween night. While there are certain candies that should be avoided, not all candy will cause problems for kids with braces. After trick-or-treating, you could trade unsafe candies with siblings and/or friends so they don’t miss out on the sugar buzz.

Dr. Hanachi and our team have come up with a list of teeth-friendly treats that should keep you from worrying about breaking your braces. We also came up with a list of candies to avoid, so as to save you a trip to our Gastonia or Mooresville, NC office. Remember to be extra careful when you indulge this Halloween!

Braces-Friendly Sweets

  • Solid chocolate: Milk, white, or dark
  • Nougat-filled candy bars: Three Musketeers
  • Powdery candy: Sweet Tarts, Pixie Stix
  • Mint-flavored candy
  • Malted milk balls
  • Soft cookies
  • Peanut butter crackers

Avoid These Treats

  • Sticky candy: Starbursts, toffee, Tootsie Rolls
  • Hard candy: Suckers, Jolly Ranchers
  • Taffy
  • Caramels
  • Fruit chews
  • Gum
  • Caramel apples
  • Skittles
  • M&Ms

When in doubt, ask Dr. Hanachi if a particular candy is safe to eat when you have braces. We hope you enjoy your Halloween sweets, and look forward to seeing you at your next appointment! Happy Halloween!

Back to Top
Complimentary Consultation