You have it, we all have it, and it’s gross. Plaque.
It’s that gritty, sometimes sticky feeling film that builds up on your teeth. You may not be able to see it, but if you run your tongue across your teeth, you’ll feel it and know it’s there.
Plaque, also known as tartar when it calcifies or hardens, contains millions of bacteria.
It feeds off the sugars in the food you eat, producing acids that eat away at your tooth enamel. Ugh. If you don’t take measures to remove it regularly it will cause cavities, (holes in your enamel) and gingivitis, (swollen and inflamed gums) which is an early stage of gum disease.
Obviously, neither is desirable, nor is plaque!
You can’t visit the dentist for a professional teeth cleaning everyday (though you may want to after reading this), but there are some things you can do at home to fight plaque. Keep reading for the top ten ways to remove plaque from your teeth at home.
1. Food Coloring – It helps to see where plaque is hiding
To get rid of plaque it helps to be able to see it, and that’s where food coloring comes in. By applying food coloring to your teeth you can see exactly where plaque is hiding. You may think putting food coloring on your teeth sounds a bit nutty, but the food coloring won’t stick to or stain your teeth, but it will adhere to plaque. You can buy a little bottle of it at the supermarket, (green is highly recommended).
It’s sold in the baking aisle near the cookie toppings and chocolate chips usually.
First, rub some petroleum jelly on your lips to keep them from being stained. Next, take a q-tip or cotton swab, dip it into the food coloring then run it along your teeth and gums. Or, if you prefer, you can add a few drops of food coloring to a tablespoon of water and swish it around in your mouth. The color will stick where the plaque is. Now that you can see all that disgusting plaque, grab your toothbrush and get to work!
2. Proper Brushing – Technique, time and tools are important
It may seem obvious, but proper brushing is one of the best methods of plaque removal that we have at our disposal, and many people do not brush their teeth properly. First of all, you need a good brush. If the bristles are bent out to the sides, it’s time to get a new one. Most people use their toothbrushes way longer than they should. Dentists recommend switching out your toothbrush at least every three months. So, if you been using that same toothbrush for six months to a year, it’s time to toss it out and get a new one. One way to remember that it’s time to get a new toothbrush is to change it with the seasons. When fall, spring, summer or winter arrives, go get a new one! Also, if you have a cold or infection, please get rid of your old brush and use a new one when you start to feel better. Otherwise, you can reinfect yourself with the bacteria that’s been left on your toothbrush. EEWWW!!!
Most dentists agree that a brush with soft, rounded, nylon bristles is best for removing plaque.
Small heads are preferred because they can get into hard to reach areas. For people who have limited manual dexterity, an electric or powered toothbrush may be best. Electric toothbrushes are also great for kids because they find them fun to use.
You need to brush your teeth at least twice daily, ideally after every meal or snack. For most of us that’s not possible, so brushing two times, once when we get up and again right before bed should do the trick. However, you should be brushing for two straight minutes each time. Many of us rush through our brushing and spend closer to 45 seconds to a single minute brushing our teeth and that just isn’t long enough. For optimal plaque removal hold your toothbrush at a 45 degree angle along the gum line, and brush stroking back and forth across the surface of each tooth. Then brush the chewing surface of each tooth, making sure not to miss the teeth way in back. Next brush behind each tooth using up and down strokes and the tip of your toothbrush. After you have brushed every surface of each tooth take a few seconds to brush your tongue, ridding it of the bacteria that can cause bad breath.
The type of toothpaste you use is also important. Look for one that removes tartar and plaque. Tartar control toothpaste is made with mild abrasives to scrub the plaque off your teeth, before it has a chance to harden and become tartar. Once plaque hardens or calcifies, becoming tartar, it is much harder to remove from your teeth and can cause your teeth to decay and gum disease. Using tartar control toothpaste will help remove plaque and prevent tartar from forming.
3. Flossing – Your #1 tool for removing plaque at home
Why do people hate flossing so much? Well, let’s be honest, it really isn’t a whole lot of fun. But listen up, it is your best defense against plaque. In fact, dentists rank it even higher than brushing! Many people blame lack of time for their infrequent flossing. Even if you only floss a couple of times a week it’s highly beneficial to your overall all dental health and hygiene. Obviously, flossing daily is best.
Like brushing, flossing needs to be done right to be most effective. Whether you use a flossing wand or traditional floss, waxed or unwaxed, is up to you and a matter of personal preference.
Choose whatever type of floss you’re most likely to use and get to work!
Work the floss between the teeth and down to where the gum and tooth meet and you feel resistance. Then slide the floss back up skimming over the surface of the tooth as much as possible. This action will help scrape more plaque from between your teeth and from the surfaces of your teeth. Don’t just quickly slip it up and down, really work it down into the gum line and then drag it back out, purposely rubbing the sides of the teeth along the way. Make sure to floss between all your teeth, even the hard to reach teeth in the back of your mouth.
Do not buy a waterpik and think you can substitute it for flossing. Waterpiks do not remove plaque nearly as effectively as flossing your teeth will. Proper flossing is the best way to remove plaque and it also polishes the surfaces of the teeth.
4. Oil Pulling – An ancient yet effective technique for removing plaque
The virtues of coconut oil are being extolled all over the place these days and not surprisingly studies have found it’s quite useful for preventing plaque formation. An ancient practice, oil pulling practitioners have used sunflower, sesame and coconut oils. However, coconut oil has benefits that the other oils do not. It contains high levels of lauric acid which has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties.
Happily, most people who practice oil pulling do not find it unpleasant.
You can buy coconut oil at most supermarkets. Try to find organic coconut oil if possible. Coconut oil is solid when kept cool, but will start to liquefy right around 70-80 degrees farenheit. Place a spoonful of coconut oil in your mouth and allow it to liquefy, if it hasn’t already. Then swish it all around, literally “pulling” it through and between your teeth. Now, the only annoying thing about oil pulling is that it should be practiced for 10 to 20 minutes. Yes, that sounds like a long time, but it’s what’s required for best results. One way to find for oil pulling is to do it while you shower, or if you style your hair, while drying your hair. After your 10 to 20 minutes are up spit out the oil. Be careful not to swallow it, as it will contain all that nasty bacteria that was in your mouth. Proceed with flossing and brushing your teeth as usual. For best results practice oil pulling once daily, first thing in the morning, or right before bed.
5. Baking Soda – An acid neutralizing power house
Also called sodium bicarbonate, baking soda is excellent for removing plaque at home. Baking soda is effective because it actually neutralizes the acids in your mouth that cause bacteria to grow. Less bacteria, less plaque. It has the added benefit of whitening your teeth.
To add baking soda to your dental hygiene regimen first wet your toothbrush and then place a small amount, pea sized, of baking soda on the wet bristles. Proceed with brushing your teeth thoroughly. Spit out the baking soda and rinse your mouth with lukewarm water.
You can also combine baking soda with a little salt to create a more abrasive stain and plaque fighting mixture.
Use about a tablespoon of baking soda and half a teaspoon of salt. Mix the two together in a bowl, then apply to your wet toothbrush and brush as usual. Spit and rinse.
Everybody’s different so some may benefit from using baking soda daily, those with thinner enamel should only use baking soda once or twice a week. Using baking soda frequently can over time damage tooth enamel.
Did you know many of the foods you eat can help remove or prevent plaque? Keep reading to find out which foods are plaque fighting heroes.
6. Cheese – Indulge in it after meals for better oral health and to reduce harmful plaque
Great news if you’re a cheese lover! Cheese can help reduce plaque production. It helps promote the flow of saliva in your mouth which naturally cleans out bacteria. It also reduces the amount of plaque-producing bacteria in your saliva, increasing the PH level and helping to protect your tooth enamel.
Some properties in cheese may even coat your teeth, protecting them from acids and re-mineralizing them.
Cheeses that have been aged are best, Swiss and Cheddar are good picks. In some parts of the world it’s customary to finish a meal with a piece of cheese. Turns out that custom is great for your teeth. Beginning or ending a meal with a piece of cheese has dental health benefits. So pass on dessert and nosh on a piece of delicious aged cheese instead!
7. Green tea – A super food that’s super at removing plaque
Another helpful super food, green tea is also receiving recognition for it’s many health benefits including its effectiveness for removing plaque. Green tea contains polyphenols which help reduce the amount of bacteria in your saliva and your mouth overall, which results in less plaque forming.
Studies have found that green tea helps prevent periodontal or gum disease. Due to it’s anti-inflammatory properties it not only gets rid of plaque, but it also helps reduce inflammation associated with gum disease. Plus, it’s been found to reduce tooth loss and to slow the progression of oral cancer.
Another great benefit of drinking green tea is better breath! Yup, it kills the stinky microbes in your mouth and leaves it smelling better.
In fact, it’s been found more effective at freshening breath than chewing gum or sucking on mints.
Studies have shown that consuming black tea may have similar benefits. However, black tea is often more highly processed, which may remove many of the antioxidants and plant compounds that are so beneficial. It also contains double to triple the amount of caffeine that green tea has which can interfere with your sleep, cause nervousness or jitters and interact with any medications you are taking.
For maximum benefits prepare your tea properly. Use fresh cold water, preferably filtered or spring water. Boil it in a kettle. Once it’s boiling remove it from the heat and let it sit for three minutes. Using a ceramic teapot, add the water to the tea bag or leaves. Let the combination steep covered for another three minutes before removing the actual tea bag or leaves from the tea. Try to grow accustomed to drinking your tea straight, without any added sugar. Sugar will counteract some of the oral health benefits of drinking green tea.
8. Vinegar – A bacteria killing super star
Vinegar, both white and Apple Cider, is effective for getting rid of plaque and can help whiten your teeth. Vinegar is highly acidic and it’s the acid in it that kills the plaque producing bacteria in your mouth. Happily, it also will improve your breath!
Now vinegar is not pleasant tasting, but don’t let that turn you off. There are a couple of different ways you can use vinegar in your dental hygiene regimen.
First, you can simply dip a cloth, cotton ball, or q-tip in vinegar and apply it to the surfaces of your teeth.
Next, rinse your mouth with water and brush as usual. Secondly, you can make a paste by combining two parts vinegar to one part baking soda. Use this combo to brush your teeth. Then rinse your mouth with water and brush with regular toothpaste.
Or, you can rinse your mouth with a combination of vinegar and water. Use two teaspoons of vinegar and one quarter cup of water. Swish it around in your mouth for thirty seconds and then spit it out. Follow this up by brushing your teeth as normal. Because of its acidic nature it’s important to thoroughly brush your teeth after using vinegar.
9. Aloe Vera – Removes plaque as effectively as commercial mouthwashes
Another ancient remedy, Aloe Vera has been used for centuries in ayurvedic medicine and is appreciated for it’s antibacterial agents. It’s been used to treat gastrointestinal disorders and to help heal wounds to the skin.
Studies have shown that Aloe Vera is just as effective at reducing plaque and bacteria in your mouth as chlorhexidine, the commonly used antibacterial ingredient in most commercial mouthwashes. Chlorhexidine, however, kills both the good and bad bacteria, where as Aloe Vera kills the bad bacteria, but not the good bacteria.
Chlorhexidine can also have negative side effects, including rashes and irritation of the soft tissues in the mouth.
To use Aloe Vera to remove plaque you can either buy an Aloe Vera plant or Aloe Vera juice. Aloe Vera juice is available at some food stores and most health food stores. The plant you can often find at the food store, if not, then at any of the big home stores like Lowe’s or Home Depot. If you buy a plant you will want to remove a leaf, then cut it open and extract the pulp. Take the pulp and rub it onto your teeth and gums.
Leave it on for about ten minutes then rinse your mouth with cold water. It’s recommended that you do this treatment twice daily. If you buy Aloe Vera juice you can use it to rinse your mouth. Take one cup Aloe Vera juice and combine it with one half cup of distilled water. Swish the combo in your mouth for a minute or so and spit out. If you make the rinse ahead of time be sure to give it a good shake prior to using.
10. Vitamin C rich foods – Naturally remove plaque from your teeth
Catherine Zeta Jones has claimed she whitens her teeth by eating strawberries, and she may be onto something. Nature generously provides us with many fruits and vegetables (like strawberries) we can eat that are rich in vitamin C which is beneficial to our oral health and vital to our health overall. Vitamin C is required by our bodies to create collagen which is literally what binds us together. People with low levels of vitamin C or “scurvy” suffer from bleeding gums, tooth and hair loss, joint pain and swelling, they bruise easily and are fatigued. Lack of vitamin C can cause us to fall apart.
In our mouths vitamin C helps build up our gums and keeps them adhering to our teeth, preventing pockets where bacteria can seep in. It also keeps the bones around the roots of our teeth strong and healthy so our teeth don’t fall out. Referred to as the “invisible toothbrush” vitamin C rids your mouth of plaque and prevents tartar build up.
Some vitamin C superstars you can include in your diet to reduce and remove plaque are: strawberries, tomatoes, pineapple, oranges, limes, guava, apples, kiwi, papaya, bell peppers, etc. Some of these foods, like apples, you can just eat and reap the benefits. Apples not only contain vitamin C but their hard crunchy texture scrubs the surface of your teeth removing plaque. Strawberries and tomatoes can be mushed up and applied to your teeth. If you leave the mush on for five minutes or so it will soften any existing tartar. Follow it up by brushing thoroughly.
The “orange peel method” is a popular method for removing plaque.
Simply take an orange peel and rub the white side along your teeth and gums for a couple of minutes before brushing to help soften and remove plaque or tartar.
Guava, both the fruit and leaves, is considered great for removing plaque and reducing irritation of the gums. You can chew the leaves and then spit them out, or, take an unripe piece of guava and chew on it. You can also find mouth rinses that contain guava leaf extract at your local health food store or online.
Hopefully in this list of the top ten methods for removing plaque at home you found several strategies to help you win the fight against plaque and achieve better oral health. However, none of these can replace the benefits of regular professional dental care and cleanings.
You should aim to have your teeth cleaned professionally at least twice a year.
Your dentist and dental hygienist have tools and techniques that remove plaque and tartar more completely and effectively than what you can accomplish at home. Any plaque that you miss can start to calcify and become tartar which is difficult to remove on your own.
Plus, in your twice yearly visits your dentist may be able to detect other issues that could compromise your oral health and your health overall at an earlier stage. Most systemic diseases have symptoms that manifest orally. For instance, bad breath that won’t go away and bleeding gums are diabetes warning signs.
Leukemia, oral cancer, pancreatic cancer, heart disease and kidney disease are all very serious diseases that a visit to your dentist could help detect.