Seeing plaque buildup on your teeth can be annoying. However, using a plaque scraper, dental scaler, or surgical curette is an extreme measure for home dental hygiene.
Undoubtedly, plaque scrapers are helpful and practical tools for plaque and tartar removal. Your dental hygienist may use one on you during your previous appointment. But it is best left to be done by dental professionals unless you are a hygienist yourself.
What is plaque?
Plaque is a sticky bacteria film that forms on the surface of everyone’s teeth. It has a yellowish or brownish appearance and can develop above or below the gum line.
Plaque can develop into tartar and become extremely hard to remove if left untreated. Tartar attracts more bacteria and damages the gums and bones supporting the teeth.
Some other byproducts of plaque include:
- Sore and swollen gums
- Loose teeth
- Mouth ulcers
- Lumps on your lips
According to British Dental Journal, increased plaque accumulation increases the following:
- Caries risk
- Suppression of beneficial bacteria
- Gingivitis risk
- Halitosis risk
What causes plaque?
Plaque thrives on your foods and drinks. When the bacteria in your mouth mix with carbonated foods, they release acids that break down carbohydrates. This strengthens the plaque and forms a sticky film on your teeth.
Plaque grows thicker the longer you don’t brush or floss your teeth after eating or drinking. The mixture of the bacterial acids and carbohydrates in your food causes plaque.
Other causes of plaque are:
- Chewing tobacco
- Eating a high amount of sugary foods
What are the signs of plaque buildup?
Plaque usually appears yellow, brown, or tan when building up above the gum. It appears as black or brown below the gum line. Buildup signs are different for everyone, but you can usually expect the following:
- Receding gums
- Bone loss
- Periodontal disease
- Chronic bad breath
- Tooth sensitivity
- Tartar buildup along the gumline
- Swollen or bleeding gums
- Toothache or mouth pain
- Deep pain in the jaw
- Pain from chewing.
What are the dangers of using a plaque scraper at home?
Plaque scrapers for teeth are medical instruments that take years of professional learning and practice to handle effectively. Dental hygienists have undergone this phase and are qualified to use them.
Using a plaque scraper at home could lead to mistakes with serious dental consequences.
Gum tissue damage
Using a plaque scraper at home can cause accidental puncturing of your gum tissues. This mistake might lead to bleeding, painful gum tissue trauma, and gum recession. Gum recession will expose the tooth’s root and cause teeth sensitivity.
Misuse or improper handling of a plaque scraper can push plaque under the gumline. This may lead to more bacteria in your gum and eventually cause an infection in the gums.
Since you have no professional knowledge, you may scrap your enamel instead of the plaque. Hence, the teeth become more sensitive to temperature.
Enamel does not have any living cells. It does not grow back.
Due to the sharpness of the plaque scraper, you might injure other parts of your mouth. Your tongue, cheeks, or other soft tissues may be damaged.
How to remove plaque safely
See your dentist
The best and safest way to remove plaque safely is by seeing your dentist. Have scheduled visits to your dental hygienist to remove plaque from your teeth with a plaque scraper and other instruments.
However, if you want to remove plaque at home safely, use the following:
Use fluoride toothpaste and toothbrush
Ensure to brush twice daily to remove plaque. If you brush after each meal, it instantly removes every stain on your teeth. Also, consider using an electric toothbrush.
Make use of an antibacterial plaque-reducing mouthwash to rinse your mouth daily.
Floss your teeth
Reach between your teeth. Use dental floss or tape. Use water flossers, if you have any, to remove plaque daily.
These methods will help remove plaque safely without using a plaque scrapper at home. However, a regular visit to your dentist is still the best way to remove plaque safely and prevent tartar. It allows your dentist to check your teeth for plaque in the hidden parts of your gum that you may not know of.
How do dentists remove heavy plaque?
Heavy plaque is also called tartar. Dentists remove tartar through a process called dental cleaning. It starts with the dentist checking the teeth and gum with a mirror for potential issues. After spotting tartar, the dentist will recommend a deep dental cleaning. Your deep cleaning procedure depends on the dentist, but you can usually expect these steps:
This is a procedure to remove tartar buildup in a non-surgical method. The dentist makes use of a plaque scraper for teeth to remove tartar. This process is performed either by a manual or an ultrasonic instrument.
Manual Instrument: This is done with a handheld plaque scraper and a curette to remove tartar. The dentist uses their sense of touch to locate areas with the most tartar.
Ultrasonic instrument: This is faster and preferable for accurate results. The ultrasonic equipment has a vibrating metal tip that scrapes the tooth surface and instantly sprays water to wash the tartar off.
After successful tartar removal, the dentists will brush your teeth with an abrasive toothpaste. The brushing is done with an electric brush and is usually not painful. The toothpaste helps scrub the teeth while polishing them.
Once the tartar is removed and the teeth are polished, flossing is the next phase. Flossing is geared towards removing escaped tartar during deep cleaning.
This is the last phase of the treatment procedure. This is essential to enhance teeth strength in fighting off cavities.
How to maintain good oral health to prevent plaque?
Good oral hygiene will prevent plaque formation if practiced consistently. Consider incorporating the following into your daily activities:
Brush twice daily: Get a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste, and brush twice daily. Preferably, you can brush after every meal to instantly remove every plaque.
Floss daily: Ensure to floss before brushing as it helps remove plaque. Floss twice daily also. It is important to floss properly.
Frequent dental checkup: Visit your dentist for deep cleaning at least once or twice a year. Go for constant oral checkups frequently.
Eat healthy: Sugary or carbonated food should be minimized or stopped. Consider eating nutritious and healthy foods. You can try to eat more fruits and veggies.
Drink more water: Water is effective and helps clean your mouth. It rids your mouth of acids, thus preventing plaque formation.
The amount of time you are in a dental chair depends on the amount of plaque or tartar. However, most dental cleaning lasts between 1-2 hours. It may be less if you have less plaque in your teeth to remove. Also, the pace of the dentist and their handling of the tools determine the time. Also, a manual process takes more time than an ultrasonic process for dental cleaning.
It is not advisable to leave plaque unattended. If plaque is not removed within 48 hours, it hardens into tartar. When the tartar builds up over time, it can cause permanent tooth decay, cavities, gingivitis, and tooth loss. You may experience mouth ulcers or lumps on the lips in some cases.
At-home dental care is crucial for ensuring proper oral hygiene for plaque removal. However, taking it to the extreme of using a plaque scraper is very dangerous. Since you have no professional training with the tool, it can do more harm than good. Trust your dentist with their professional knowledge and tools to remove your plaque.
P. D. Marsh, ‘Contemporary Perspective on Plaque Control.’ British Dental Journal, vol. 22 no. 12 Jun 23, 2012.
Healthline. ‘Tooth Enamel Erosion: What You Should Know.’
NHS. ‘Gum disease.’
Andrew Gallagher, DMD; Joseph Sowinski, DDS; James Bowman, MS; Kathy Barrett; Shirley Lowe; Kartik Patel, Ph.D.; Mary Lynn Bosma, DDS; Jonathan E Creeth, Ph.D., ‘The Effect of Brushing Time and Dentifrice on Dental Plaque Removal in vivo.’ The Journal of Dental Hygiene, Volume 83 Issue 3 Summer 2009.
Dr. Pranav Vaid; Dr. Pratik Prakash Bumb, Dr. Arushi Chopra; Dr. Kumar Ravishankar; Dr. Abhinav Singh and Dr. Mamta Singh, ‘Dental plaque removal and motivation of a manual toothbrush versus an interactive power toothbrush in young people with ﬁxed orthodontic appliances: a single examiner-blind randomized controlled clinical trial.’ International Journal of Development Research, Jan 30, 2021.
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