Image of grape jelly -it can give you a lesson in how to remove plaque

Dried grape jelly, left over from a snack, can give you a lesson in how to remove plaque.

If how to remove plaque is on your mind, you already know plaque’s a problem.

Why is it so difficult to remove? Well, it’s like dried grape jelly. And who wants something like dried grape jelly on their teeth? Nobody!

The three questions we need to address are:

  • What Is Plaque?
  • How Is Plaque Like Dried Grape Jelly?
  • How To Remove Plaque From Teeth?

All good questions, so lets go after them one at a time.

What Is Plaque?

Dental plaque starts out as a single layer of microscopic bacteria that clings to anything inside of your mouth. Which means you can’t see it, it’s invisible.

But bacteria are prolific little critters reproducing at an alarming rate. If you give them a nice warm, moist environment loaded with plenty of food, stand back, they’ll start doubling in population very quickly.

According to Bill Landers, president of Oratec at, “There are 20 billion bacteria in your mouth on average and they reproduce every five hours. So if you go 24 hours without brushing, those 20 billion can easily become 100 billion!”

Most of the 20 billion are clinging to the inside lining of your cheeks or are embedded in the deep crevices on the surface of your tongue. Try using a spoon to scrape the back of your tongue. You’ll find loads of plaque is removed and usually it smells pretty gross. Special tongue scrapers are available just for this purpose.

The bacteria on your teeth, about one billion of the 20 billion, are our primary plaque removal focus right now. Once the first layer of bacteria adheres to any area inside your mouth, the lining of your mouth, cheeks, teeth or tongue, the thickening process begins. As each layer of bacteria clings to the previous layer a thin bacterial blanket or full on comforter develops.

How Is Plaque Like Dried Grape Jelly?

The thickening blanket or comforter of bacteria is called a biofilm. It’s a layer of living, breathing reproducing bacteria. And to better understand how difficult this biofilm is to remove, lets look at a comparison. How about “grape jelly,” dried on your kitchen counter for a couple of days? In your minds eye, imagine cleaning up the dried jelly, and the steps you’d take, it’ll help you to better understand how to remove plaque.

Imagine, scraping at the edge of the purple blob with your fingernail and assessing the task ahead. Only a tiny bit loosens. Drat! Realizing this will take a little more effort, you attack it with a wet paper towel.

Eventually you escalate to a sponge with the scrubby layer on one side or even a stiff brush. Ding! Ding! Ding! A brush! That’s it! You are making progress, the jelly blob finally softens, but requires time and effort to remove completely.

Plaque on your teeth is just like dried grape jelly. It won’t come off without a fight. Scrubbing, with a toothbrush designed for the purpose is most effective because it adapts to the shape of your teeth. Your teeth aren’t flat like a counter top, but have complex contours.

Teeth also have texture, unlike most smooth counters. On a microscopic level they are rough with plenty of hand holds for bacteria to grab. To make it even more of a challenge, a protein layer quickly forms on your teeth almost immediately after each cleaning effort. It provides an immediate sticky surface for bacteria to latch on to, so your cleaning job is never done, just like daily showering or bathing.

How To Remove Plaque From Teeth

Plaque removal requires physical displacement. Plaque has to be scraped, pushed and pealed off of teeth. What are my choices? A fingernail is okay, where it can reach, but a toothbrush and dental floss are the most common and most effective choices in western countries.

image of toothbrush and floss-an effective team for plaque removal

A toothbrush and floss used effectively are a great team for plaque removal

Tooth brush bristles often need help to remove plaque so try adding baking soda to your toothpaste to help return a smooth feel to your teeth.

Baking soda acts as a fine abrasive or scrubby powder for teeth. Fine salt can also be used when a bit more abrasive power is required. Toothpaste masks the flavor of baking soda or salt making it less objectionable, so you can try a mix.

Place soda or salt in the palm of your hand and press your toothpaste or water moistened brush into it firmly. It’ll help carry it to your mouth. Regardless of your choice for salt or soda, they both work best with an ultra soft brush to avoid abrasion and gum irritation.

Remember, any plaque left behind on your teeth will attract the minerals in your saliva that will begin to form microscopic crystals. Each layer of mineral attracts more plaque, which attracts more minerals…until you have limestone like deposits of tartar on teeth.

image of tartar on teeth mineral

Calcium phosphate crystals form tartar on teeth if any plaque is left behind.

Dry Brushing

Dry brushing can also make a huge difference in the health of your teeth and gums. Using no toothpaste at all frees you up from the bathroom sink and places no limits on where you brush. No worries about looking for a good place to get rid of a mouth full of toothpaste foam.

Use a very soft brush, as you dry brush. And if you do it when you are doing something that doesn’t require your full attention, like watching TV, reading a book or scanning social media, it’ll be a breeze.

You won’t feel robbed of time, as most of us do, brushing in front of a bathroom mirror. You could easily find yourself brushing for ten minutes or more without realizing it and benefiting from plaque free teeth and gums.

Just brushing during the commercials during a “30-minute” TV show provides you with nearly 10 minutes of brushing time.

Toothpick On A Stick

Tracing around your teeth at the gumline with a toothpick will also help to remove plaque. A moist toothpick begins to form a “mini-brush” at the tip, as it is used, as the fibers of wood begin to splay out. This mini-brush can do an outstanding job of plaque removal at the critical tooth gum junction. The tough part about using a toothpick this way is that it’s almost impossible to clean the tongue side of your teeth. So what do you do? Get a handle!

There is a cleaning aid that comes in handy using about a 3/4 inch piece of a toothpick. The aid provides you with a convenient handle for your toothpick. It is called a Perio-aid. Using it takes a little practice, but it does an amazing job. It’s portable and doesn’t require the use of a bathroom mirror once you get the hang of it.

Coconut Oil As Toothpaste

Another idea is the use of coconut oil toothpaste. Make your own with coconut oil, mixed with baking soda and a few drops of peppermint essential oil for flavor. The coconut oil will provide some of the same benefits of oil pulling with baking soda adding to effective plaque removal. Working this mixture into the crevices around and between your teeth will chase out the bacterial squatters that lead to gingivitis and gum disease.

Experiment With Essential Oils

Make sure you select oils that are labeled for dietary use. I have used Citrus Bliss (R), among others, on a dry brush for cleaning teeth and tongue.

I have also flossed my teeth with essential-oil-moistened floss. Just moisten an index finger with your oil of choice and pull dental floss through the oil, between finger and thumb.

I regularly recommend a mix of spearmint, peppermint and almond oil be used on a dry brush to fight gingivitis. Brushing the back of the tongue with the same oil mix drastically cuts down on the harvest of plaque you’ll obtain with tongue scraping. And you’ll find it helps with bad breath too.

How To Remove Plaque Between The Teeth

Imagine a tooth being like a rectangular box. One side rests on the floor, actually the one attached to the root of your tooth. One side faces up which is the biting surface of the tooth, a cheek side and tongue side, and a front and back. Now lets put a string of “tooth” boxes together in a curved line with two side of each box touching another.

In the middle of this row, the visible sides of each box face up or out to the side. These are the sides that can be cleaned with a toothbrush. The two other sides, the front and back are touching other boxes, and are hidden.

Those sides are the ones that a brush will never touch, since brushes can’t fit between teeth. Floss or a jet of water will fit between your teeth and will be the best options for how to remove plaque from between teeth. The devices that produce a jet of water for the purposes of cleaning between the teeth are called oral irrigators. They are best used after plaque is disrupted or loosened from the teeth with brushing, flossing and toothpick use.

Floss can effectively remove plaque between teeth. But remember plaque is like that dried blob of jelly on the counter. One swipe with dental floss will not remove it. It will take multiple swipes on each tooth surface each time you floss, consistently done several days in a row to effectively remove plaque.

Since plaque can double in quantity every 5 hours, the less you leave behind each time you floss, the less there is to double every 5 hours.

Taking Care Of The Plaque Removal Business

Yes, it’s a big job, with big dividends. Teeth can last a lifetime with excellent care. One of my oldest patients had all of his natural teeth but two, which he lost in an accident as a teenager. Yes, he had good dental care and required many of the the things a dentist can provide over the years to repair decay, wear and tear and missing teeth. But at 100 years of age he still had an attractive smile with a wonderful personality to go with it.

Nobody else is going to really care whether you do a good job at this or not. No one is watching. It has to be something you set as a priority for your own health. If you chose not to remove plaque effectively you will eventually realize there are costs associated with your decisions. Who am I to judge?

Need a little coaching? Your holistic or biological dentist can put you on the track to success. Call him today!