6 warning signs you have too much dental plaque and how to remove it

6 warning signs you have too much dental plaque and how to remove it
Brushing your teeth with the modified bass technique is the best way to remove plaque.Drazen Zigic/Getty Images
  • Some signs that you have plaque on your teeth include bad breath, yellow teeth, and bleeding gums.
  • Reduce dental plaque by brushing and flossing twice a day and using a plaque-fighting mouthwash.
  • When plaque builds up, it can cause cavities, tooth decay, and gum disease.

Dental plaque is inevitable. Whenever you eat sugary or starchy foods, they mix with bacteria in your mouth and form a fuzzy coating on your teeth, aka plaque.

If you brush regularly, dental plaque isn't a problem. It's when you don't brush often or you brush incorrectly that plaque can build up and lead to cavities, gum disease, and tooth decay.

If left untreated, plaque can also harden into tartar, which can only be removed by a dentist. So, it's important to know the tell-tale signs of dental plaque buildup like yellow teeth and bleeding gums.
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Here are more warning signs that you may have too much dental plaque and some of the best methods to remove it.

Signs that you have dental plaque

From bleeding gums to bad greath, there's a wide range of warning signs that you may have too much dental plaque.

Do I have plaque or tartar?

Plaque can turn into tartar over time, but the two are different from each other. Plaque feels like a soft, fuzzy film on your teeth whereas tartar feels more rough and hard. You can remove plaque yourself by brushing regularly, but only a dentist should remove tartar once it's formed.
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Catching dental plaque early can stop you from developing issues like gum disease, tooth infections, and even tooth loss. Here are six signs that you may have dental plaque:

  1. Your teeth feel "fuzzy": Clean teeth should feel smooth, but when plaque builds up on the surface, your teeth may feel fuzzy when you touch them with your tongue. This can often happen when you haven't brushed your teeth yet in the morning, but if the feeling continues throughout the day, it may be a sign that too much plaque is building up.
  2. You have bad breath: Because plaque contains bacteria, it can produce an unpleasant smell.
  3. Your teeth are yellow: When plaque builds up on your teeth, the film can make your teeth look dull white or yellowish in color.
  4. Your gums look red and swollen or bleed during brushing: Too much plaque can irritate your gums, making them swell and feel tender, says Jyoti Sonkar, MSD, a professor of dentistry at Boston University. Excess plaque can also cause an infection in your gums, which can feel like a "dull pain deep in the jaw described as gnawing or scratching," Sonkar says.
  5. You have tartar build-up: Over time, if plaque isn't removed, it can harden into tartar. You can tell you have tartar if you see a build-up of yellow or brown crust on your teeth, particularly along the gum line. When tartar builds up under your gums, it can cause deep infections that can lead to losing one or more teeth.
  6. Your teeth feel sensitive: Over time, plaque can cause your gums to recede, which can expose nerve endings in your mouth and make your teeth feel more sensitive. "Tooth sensitivity is experienced as irregular or intermittent sharp pain to air, food or water," Sonkar says.

How to get rid of plaque

Practicing good oral hygiene is key to preventing and getting rid of plaque. Sonkar advises that some of the best methods to remove plaque include:

How to use the modified bass brushing technique

  1. Hold your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle from your gumline.
  2. Brush one or two teeth at a time using gentle, circling motions.
  3. When you finish brushing each tooth, remove the brush by flicking it downward away from the gumline.
  4. Make sure to brush all sides of your teeth, including the front, back, and top of your teeth.
  5. Use the same circular motion to brush your tongue.
  • Floss once per day. Flossing works best to remove plaque if you floss before you brush your teeth, as this can loosen up plaque that you can then brush away.
  • Use mouthwash twice per day. "Make sure your mouthwash has anti plaque abilities," Sonkar says. You can usually find this information on the label of your mouthwash. Sonkar recommends Listerine and Crest Total as good over-the-counter options to fight plaque.

Insider's takeaway

There are many ways to tell that you have plaque - some of the most common signs are yellow teeth and sensitive gums. You can take steps to prevent and remove plaque at home by establishing a good hygiene routine involving brushing, flossing, and using mouthwash daily.
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Though your everyday hygiene can help fight plaque, "it is prudent to visit your dentist because you cannot remove plaque/tartar completely by home care," Sonkar says. "Regular visits to your dentist will ensure that your mouth is healthy."

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