Fact or Fiction: Dental Plaque

By: Staff

4 Min Quiz

Image: refer to hsw

About This Quiz

It doesn’t take long for a thin layer of cement to dry and become so hardened it has to be jack-hammered away, but when it's just poured, it's easy enough to wash away with some gentle force. Plaque is the same way. As it's forming in the mouth, it's not hard to gently brush, rinse and spit away, but once it's hardened, tiny "jackhammers" and more than a little force are needed to chip it off our teeth. How can we be hard on plaque and banish it from our mouths while it's still soft? Test your methods and know-how here.

Plaque and tartar are the same thing.

Tartar is hardened plaque, so it is specifically the built-up kind of plaque.


A professional, in-office tooth polishing is essential for fighting tooth decay.

According to the American Dental Hygienists' Association (ADHA), polishing does little to clean or remove debris and is mainly a cosmetic smoothing for tooth surfaces after the actual cleaning.


Candy is more likely to cause plaque than orange juice.

Carbohydrates from sugars and acids from fruits and other foods can be equally corrosive to tooth enamel if they are left sitting on the teeth.


Toothbrushes were invented in 1914.

Early brushes made from the hair of boars date back to 1498 in China, and nylon brushes hit the western market in 1938.


Mouth rinses are proven to be effective in dental care.

Although some rinses are no more than washes of artificial mint flavoring and alcohol, those with anti-microbial or anti-cavity properties -- and especially those with the American Dental Association (ADA) seal of acceptance or approval -- are effective in fighting germs and plaque.


Even the approved mouth rinses are ineffective if used after brushing.

Mouth rinses can be used before or after brushing, depending on the directions or prescribed use.


Electric toothbrushes remove hardened plaque at home, replacing the need for dental office visits.

Sonic action and electric toothbrushes are very effective on soft, new plaque on teeth and at the gum line, but hardened tartar needs to be removed with ultrasonic tools and manual dislodging by a dental professional.


Excess saliva is damaging to teeth.

The opposite is true: Dry mouth can contribute to cavities because ample saliva is necessary for diluting or washing away some of the mouth's bad bacteria so the good bacteria can work more effectively.


Dental plaque isn’t the same plaque that clogs arteries inside the body.

Though there does appear to be a link between gum disease and heart disease, the plaque on teeth isn’t the same as arterial plaque. However, bacteria contributing to plaque in the mouth can get into the bloodstream through diseased gum tissue and contribute to clogged vessels in the body.


Plaque starts to spread and harden as fast as 40 minutes after eating.

It really kicks into action within 20 minutes of eating.


The first town in the United States to add fluoride to its drinking water saw a 35 percent reduction in cavities among children.

Fifteen years of studies showed a 60 percent decrease in cavities among schoolchildren who had access to the fluorinated water in Grand Rapids, Mich. beginning in 1945.


Disclosing tablets, those red chewables that show plaque trouble spots on the teeth by dying them red, are only available through dentists.

Anyone can buy them, and they're pretty readily available at local stores and online. They are safe and effective for pinpointing plaque spots both children and adults may be missing so routine brushing can be improved.


Plaque tends to settle into the lower front teeth more than the back upper teeth.

Molars, those large back teeth, tend to be favorite hang outs for plaque.


Gum disease is reversible.

Gum disease is treatable, but for the most part is not reversible.


Gingivitis is reversible.

Red, swollen gums with mild bleeding usually indicate gingivitis, the early stage of gum disease. Gingivitis can be reversed by stepping up hygiene and seeking professional care in removing tartar and calculus build-up.


Sealants are acidic treatments that get into small cavities and prevent them from getting larger.

They are plastics, applied in liquid form by a dental professional, that can protect enamel by sealing crevices on the surface of teeth.


Mouth bacteria were most likely first discovered by a 17th-century Dutch biologist.

Early studies of bacteria are linked to a 17th-century Dutchman, but he was not a scientist. Antonie van Leeuwenhoek made microscopes as a hobby and examined wiggly samples from his own mouth, later prompting more official scientific investigations.


High concentrations of fluoride in water work best at fighting cavities.

Too much fluoride causes brown spots on teeth, but low levels protect teeth from decay.


Chewing gum and gum-chewing can prevent cavities.

According to the Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA), gums made with the sweetener xylitol can prevent cavities. Chewing sugar-free gums also helps improve saliva levels for those with dry mouth, and saliva is necessary for neutralizing bacteria.


Plaque is touchy-feely.

Because plaque is largely invisible, probing and poking around is one way to find it before it's visible in the form of decay. If instruments stick to something on the surface or between teeth, that something sticky is likely plaque.


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