Options for Safe Plaque Removal at Home (Not a Scraper)

Options for Safe Plaque Removal at Home (Not a Scraper)
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Table of Contents

  1. Importance of Plaque Removal
  2. At-Home Plaque Removal
  3. Oral Hygiene Reduces Plaque
  4. Lifestyle Changes for Your Oral Health
  5. References

Brushing and flossing at least twice per day is the best way to remove plaque from your teeth at home.

If you are naturally susceptible to more plaque and tartar, you can also adjust your diet, or try incorporating baking soda or coconut oil, or fluoridated products into your oral health routine. You shouldn’t attempt to use a scraper yourself as it can damage your gums, but your dentist will use one at your regular appointments.

Why Is Removing Plaque Important?

The word plaque is associated with tartar, gum disease, and tooth decay, so you may shudder at the word. However, it is a substance that occurs naturally in everyone’s mouth.

Plaque is a sticky film that contains bacteria, which are a natural part of your mouth’s health. These bacteria consume food particles that build up in your mouth after a meal, snack, or drink. They release acids, especially when you eat carbohydrate-rich foods like sugary drinks or candy.

Although these bacteria are a normal part of your body, they can grow and release too much acid without regular cleaning. Plaque that is not consistently removed can build up tartar, or calculus, which is an off-colored, hard substance that can lead to gum disease and tooth decay.

Removing plaque is important, and brushing and flossing your teeth regularly help to keep your mouth clean. There are some additional steps you may consider taking at home to remove plaque even more effectively.

How to Safely Remove Plaque at Home

Options to Safely Remove Plaque at Home

When you visit your dentist for a regular cleaning, they may use special scrapers and cleaning products to remove plaque and tartar safely and effectively from your teeth. Dentists are specially trained in using tools like scrapers, so do not use them at home, as you can damage your gums and teeth by accident.

The most effective way of removing plaque at home is to brush your teeth at least twice per day, and use floss or interdental brushes to remove food and plaque from between your teeth. You can add a mouth rinse or mouthwash to the routine for an extra layer of oral health support.

You may be the type of person who naturally has more plaque and tartar buildup, even though you are diligent about your oral hygiene. Here are some additional steps you can take to remove plaque:

Studies have shown that poor oral health can lead to the development of diabetes and heart disease.
Adjust Your Diet

You may be consuming too much sugar or starch for your oral health, even if you do not eat a lot of candy or sweets. You may eat a lot of fruit or bread, for example, which contains sugar. You may use condiments like salad dressings, ketchup, or barbecue sauce, which contain added sugar. You may drink acidic drinks like fruit juice or sparkling water.

Instead, focus on whole foods like fresh vegetables, lean meat, and whole grains. Drink mostly plain water. These steps will support your oral health.

Brush with Baking Soda

Sprinkling baking soda on top of your toothpaste, or using a toothpaste with added baking soda, can reduce how much plaque remains in your mouth and reduce tartar buildup. Some studies suggest that baking soda is an effective addition to oral hygiene because it is an abrasive compound, buffing teeth almost like sandpaper; however, baking soda is not so abrasive that it damages the gums.

Baking soda is also slightly basic, countering the acidity from the bacteria in your mouth. This may be an antibacterial property, which could effectively reduce the amount of plaque-causing bacteria in your mouth overall.

Trying Oil Pulling with Coconut Oil
The practice of oil pulling has reportedly been practiced for thousands of years, but it is becoming popular among Americans as an additional way to support good oral hygiene. A study published in 2015 found that sesame, sunflower, and coconut oils were all effective for keeping teeth clean, but coconut oil in particular contains lauric acid, which can reduce inflammation and has some antimicrobial properties.
Use Fluoridated Products

Adding fluoride to the water supply in the United States was one of the most effective methods for reducing cavities and improving oral health. However, more people are avoiding some tap water because of concerns about other health effects from fluoride or because of concerns related to the tap itself.

With more people drinking bottled water or finding natural sources of spring water, the reduction in fluoride could mean more plaque buildup in people’s mouths. You do not necessarily have to drink tap water more often, but consider finding a toothpaste with added fluoride to support your oral health.

Oral Hygiene Practices Reduce Plaque Buildup

Rather than find ways to remove plaque yourself, it is best to practice preventative measures at home, and visit your dentist regularly to have your teeth professionally cleaned. A good oral hygiene routine is the only recommended way to “remove” plaque at home, which means you slow the buildup of plaque.

A good oral hygiene routine reduces the amount of plaque that builds up. This routine includes:

  • Brushing your teeth at least twice per day.
  • Using floss or interdental brushes at least once per day.
  • Adding mouthwash to the routine if you want an extra level of support.

You should replace your toothbrush when the bristles become bent out of shape, or about every three to four months. Be sure to use a soft-bristled toothbrush. This reduces irritation along your gum line. A hard-bristled toothbrush will not remove more plaque from your teeth and can cause gum damage.

Cleaning between your teeth is essential to reducing plaque buildup. Gently slide floss or interdental brushes between your teeth. Like brushing too hard, flossing too hard can hurt your gums and will not make your teeth cleaner.

Lifestyle Changes to Protect Oral Health

Your overall health can affect your oral health too. Making some lifestyle changes can reduce plaque buildup and prevent gum disease. Some of these changes include:

  • Quit smoking.
  • Limit alcohol consumption.
  • Eat more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
  • Reduce sugar intake.
  • Drink fewer sugary or acidic drinks, including fruit juice.
  • Use a straw when drinking to reduce contact between your teeth and sugar or acid.
  • Drink plenty of water to reduce dry mouth problems.
  • Eat foods that are high in calcium, including milk, leafy green vegetables, and even some types of seeds.

It is also important to understand how any underlying health issues can impact plaque buildup. For example, diabetes increases your risk of gum disease, which can add to tooth decay risk. Work with your physician to manage diabetes.

If you take medications that cause dry mouth, this might lead to dental problems. If you develop this side effect, talk to your physician about other medication options, drink plenty of water, and work with your dentist to examine your oral health on a regular basis.

Misaligned teeth can also contribute to more plaque buildup. Teeth that are misaligned are harder to clean, and this can cause food to build up in harder to reach places. This, in turn, leads to more plaque and other dental hygiene problems.

If you want to reduce plaque, you can work with an orthodontist to properly align your teeth and improve your overall oral health. Clear, plastic aligners are a fantastic option for most people seeking to improve their smile — not just the appearance of their teeth, but their overall oral health as well.

References

Plaque. Mouth Healthy, from the American Dental Association (ADA). Date fetched: May 24, 2021.

How to Reduce Dental Plaque. Humana. Date fetched: May 24, 2021.

The Benefits of Fluoride Toothpaste, Mouthwash, & Water. Oral B. Date fetched: May 24, 2021.

Effect of Baking Soda in Dentrifices on Plaque Removal. (November 2017). The Journal of the American Dental Association.

Effect of Coconut Oil on Plaque Related Gingivitis – a Preliminary Report. (March 2015). Nigerian Medical Journal.

Taking Care of Your Teeth and Mouth. (March 2020). National Institute on Aging (NIA), US Department of Health and Human Services (DHS).

What Can Adults Do to Maintain Good Oral Health? (November 2021). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Disclaimer: This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to serve as dental or other professional health advice and is not intended to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any condition or symptom. You should consult a dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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