The 5-Step Tooth Plaque Prevention Plan

Have you ever run your tongue along the front of your teeth and felt a slimy coating? That “fuzzy-toothed” feeling is the buildup of bacteria.

It’s called plaque, and if you let it stick around for too long, it can damage your teeth and gums.

What can you do to stop plaque in its tracks?

Step 1: Brush Every Day

Once a day is good, but twice is better. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and a fluoride toothpaste.

“Brushing twice daily prevents plaque from forming in the first place and disrupts any plaque that has already started to form and mature,” says JoAnn R. Gurenlian, PhD, a professor in the department of dental hygiene at Idaho State University.

Make sure you get all the areas of your mouth, including teeth, gums, tongue, and the insides of your cheeks. It should take about 2 minutes.

Step 2: Clean Between Your Teeth

Flossing may not be much fun, but cleaning between your teeth every day can really help your oral health.

If you have a tough time with floss, ask your dentist about interdental brushes, floss aids, water, or air-flossing devices.

Step 3: Use a Mouth Rinse

Know your terms: Mouth rinse and mouthwash are different.

“Mouthwash is used to freshen breath,” Gurenlian says. “An antiseptic mouth rinse, however, actually helps reduce the bacterial load found in plaque.”

Using mouth rinse prevents plaque buildup more than just brushing and flossing. Gurenlian suggests a 30-second swish twice a day.

Step 4: Avoid Sticky, Sugary Food

The hardest foods to get off your teeth are ones that cling when you chew. Think raisins, granola bars, or sticky candy. Sugary and starchy foods are some of the most harmful to teeth.

“If sugar is not removed from your teeth shortly after you eat it, plaque uses it to help create tooth decay,” Gurenlian says. The faster you can get food off your teeth, the less likely you are to get cavities.

Step 5: Go to the Dentist

Have someone who knows teeth keep tabs on yours. See your dentist regularly, so they can look for signs of disease. Most people have to visit only twice a year.

WebMD Feature Reviewed by Michael Friedman, DDS on October 27, 2016



JoAnn R. Gurenlian, PhD, registered dental hygienist, graduate program director, department of dental hygiene, Idaho State University; president, International Federation of Dental Hygienists.

Warren, P. Journal of Clinical Dentistry, 1996.

Mouth Healthy: “Plaque.”

CDC: “Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.”

Gunsolley, J. Journal of Dentistry, 2010.

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