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Plaque Habit No. 3: Not Using Rinses

Mouth rinses with fluoride have been shown to prevent decay. Antibacterial rinses reduce plaque and gingivitis and attack bad breath. Keep brushing and flossing, and if you haven’t already, add a mouth rinse, such as an antimicrobial or a fluoride rinse (not just a mouthwash), for a triple threat against teeth destroyers.

Plaque Habit No. 4: Avoiding the Dentist

Even if you brush and floss your teeth daily, you’ll miss some plaque. Over time, that plaque hardens into tartar that needs to be removed at your dentist’s office. Yet more than a third of people surveyed haven’t seen their dentist in more than a year.

“Even dentists don’t like to go to the dentist,” jokes Price. But studies show that in general, people who neglect regular dentist visits get more cavities and have a higher chance of losing their teeth.

Once a year teeth cleanings are considered the minimum. Twice a year teeth cleanings may be better for many people. “Most dentists recommend twice a year cleanings or more,” according to Price.

Plaque Habit No. 5: Neglecting Nature’s Toothbrushes

Long before toothbrushes and fluoride toothpaste existed, certain foods played a role in keeping plaque off of teeth.

“Eating crunchy vegetables or fruits with the skin on can scrub off plaque,” Price tells WebMD. Carrots, apples, cucumbers, and many other raw fruits and vegetables are teeth-friendly, despite the sugar they contain.

In addition, a diet high in fruits and vegetables and low in processed foods protects you from obesity, heart disease, and cancer.

Plaque Habit No. 6: Indulging Your Sweet Tooth

Bacteria love simple carbohydrates like sugar. Eating candy or drinking sugary soft drinks lets sugar stick to our teeth, giving bacteria something to munch on. As the bacteria create a film of plaque, they digest sugar into acid, which damages teeth.

“All sugary candy, and most junk food in general, contribute to plaque formation,” Price says. “High-sugar foods or drinks that are also soft or sticky are especially problematic. ... Sugary soft drinks might be about the worst thing you can put on your teeth."

Avoiding these six bad habits can help you keep plaque in check (and keep your teeth). 

You may also want to talk about sealants with your dentist. The pits and fissures on molars can be difficult to keep clean in some people, even with good dental care. Dental sealants are a clear plastic coating that covers the tooth surface, barring bacteria and acid from entering. Sealants are safe and effective in blocking plaque and preventing tooth decay.

“No one’s teeth can stay plaque-free 24 hours a day, it’s just not possible,” says Price. But good habits over a lifetime will help you beat back plaque and save your smile.

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