How To Scrape Plaque Off Teeth
You know what’s worse than getting plaque on your tooth? Not being able to brush it off. Or maybe not even knowing that there was any plaque in the first place. If you’re one of those people who doesn’t like cleaning their teeth or just aren’t very motivated about doing so, here’s an easy tip for you. Use a piece of regular paper — grocery store brown bagging material works well — and scrape all the plaque from your front teeth while you sleep. Yes, really! And then go ahead and clean them again in the morning. It’ll be easier than you think (and you won’t have to worry about brushing later).
Scraping the plaque from your teeth overnight sounds pretty crazy, but it actually has some scientific basis behind it. The theory goes back to the 1930s when researchers noticed that patients with periodontal disease (gum inflammation) had more bacteria under their gum line at night than during the day. This led scientists to believe that bacteria could get into crevices in our mouths where we can’t reach with a toothbrush and cause gingivitis. Over time, they theorized that bacteria would also accumulate around the roots of our teeth where we can’t reach with a toothbrush or flosser. But since most of us don’t want plaque hanging out along the root of our teeth, we developed methods to make sure we brushed effectively enough to remove surface stains. We didn’t need to use toothpicks, cotton swabs or anything else; if you were lucky enough to have received oral care instructions as part of your childhood, you may remember using a small piece of paper or cardboard to scrape away plaque.
The reason this method worked wasn’t because scraping helps dislodge bacteria and other debris wedged between our teeth. Instead, it was due to something called “plaque retentivity.” When plaque forms on the surface of our teeth, it creates a sticky film that holds onto particles such as dead skin cells and food debris. As long as the film stays intact, those things stay stuck. However, when we start moving our tongue against the film, or eating or grinding our teeth, the film softens up a bit and its adhesion decreases. Once the film cracks open, though, the trapped particles stick to the film rather than the enamel. By scraping away the softened film, we can prevent those particles from sticking to the surface of our teeth, which allows them to be removed by brushing and flossing.
If you’ve tried scraping before and found it too difficult to do without wearing down your enamel, don’t fret. You might find the same results simply by changing the angle of your tongue while chewing. With either approach, you’ll need to be careful not to wear down the enamel on your teeth, especially if you have sensitive teeth or gums. If you feel pain or sensitivity after scraping, try putting a damp cloth over your mouth instead of making contact with your teeth.
Now that you’ve got the scoop on scraping plaque from your teeth at night, let’s talk about what you should do once you wake up in the morning. First thing’s first: rinse your mouth thoroughly with warm water to wash away any leftover traces of last night’s dinner (or whatever meal you ate before bedtime), and take a quick look in the mirror to see if you notice any new plaque growth anywhere in your mouth. If so, repeat the process from the previous page until the plaque is gone.
Next, grab a fresh piece of scrap paper (make sure it isn’t colored!) and put it underneath your lower lip near your chin. Now move your upper lip forward slowly and carefully toward your teeth, holding the paper firmly in place. Start scraping gently and watch the plaque lift right off your teeth. After a few seconds, stop scraping and pull the paper upward toward your face. Then repeat the scraping technique with your tongue. Again, continue the process until all the plaque is gone. Finally, spit out the pieces of paper and rinse your mouth with cool water. That’s it! Your teeth will now feel cleaner and brighter.
In addition to keeping your teeth free of plaque, you might also want to consider protecting your gums from future infections. For example, if you eat a lot of processed foods that contain high amounts of sugar, you’ll probably experience receding gums sooner than someone who eats healthier meals. Also, smoking cigarettes or chewing tobacco causes plaque buildup, and having braces or dentures may mean that plaque formation happens faster.
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