Is Plaque Destroying Your Oral Health? (And What to Do About It)

Is Plaque Destroying Your Oral Health? (And What to Do About It)

It isn't something we often consider, but plaque is a major issue when it comes to tooth decay, gum disease, and even bad breath, but you don’t have to live with it.

It isn't something we often consider, but plaque is a major issue when it comes to tooth decay, gum disease, and even bad breath, but you don’t have to live with it.

teeth cleaning at the dentist


You’ve probably heard of dental plaque before, and even if you don’t really know what it is, you probably know (thanks to antiplaque toothpaste and your dental hygienist) that it’s bad. Plaque is a sticky biofilm that coats your teeth and contains bacteria; if you’ve ever had that fuzzy, slimy, or cruddy coating on your teeth that makes you want to brush them at the end of the day, that’s plaque! But besides the ick factor, why is plaque so harmful? If you’ve ever struggled with tooth decay, gum disease, or even bad breath you might not have considered that plaque is actually a major player. The good news is, however, that you don’t have to live with it!

If you are like me, then you HATE going to the dentist. The high-pitched drilling, the stinging pain of needles and drills, having to lie down with your mouth gaping open drying out while saliva pools in the corners, and then comes the most excruciating part of all, the bill! You have to pay what?!?! Why does it have to be that way? You brush and floss your teeth twice a day! Then every six months you must go to the dentist and get another tooth drilled because they find yet again ANOTHER cavity! When will it end? When you finally get dentures? Uuuhgg!

Sometimes it feels as if your dentist is like a mechanic, at each checkup always looking for some new fabricated issue just to charge you more money, right? Well, maybe that isn't the case... perhaps the real issue is your toothpaste. Is it really doing everything that it needs to do to keep your mouth healthy? Or is your toothpaste letting you down?

Your toothpaste is supposed to help remove food debris and plaque, kill bacteria, and neutralize acid, but if you are still getting cavities, it isn’t doing its job well enough. If you are brushing and flossing properly, you’re probably removing all the food debris, but if you’re leaving too much plaque, bacteria, or acid in your mouth you will not be able to maintain good oral health and you’ll keep having dental problems.

What Causes Bad Oral Health?

man with dentures

The process of oral decay begins with bacteria, but it doesn’t end there. The mouth contains 700 different species of bacteria [1]! Yeah, that’s a lot! Surprisingly, that is more species than exist in your colon, which houses between 300 and 500 different species [2]! Most of the bacteria in your mouth do not contribute to tooth decay, but a handful do. The most prominent harmful species is called streptococcus mutans (or S. mutans for short) [3].

When you chew your food, particles get stuck in your teeth. The bacteria in your mouth eat these food particles, particularly the sugars, and then produce acid as a byproduct, which then dissolves your teeth and causes tooth decay. The bacteria also create plaque (which as a reminder, is that sticky, cruddy-feeling tooth coating), and they use this biofilm as their home, shielding them from things that might harm them. It creates a safe, bacteria-friendly ecosystem where they can live, continue to eat your food and dissolve your teeth, and in turn, create more space for them to live in your mouth.

In order to have a healthy mouth, you need to remove all four factors of bad oral health on a daily basis: food debris, plaque, bacteria, and acid. Because plaque, bacteria, and acid are so intertwined, plaque becomes the most significant factor in oral diseases. Removing it can make the bacteria vulnerable and allow your oral hygiene products to kill and remove them which prevents further plaque buildup. Failure to remove plaque on a regular basis can cause it to build up and harden into calculus or tartar (a calcium-infused plaque that your toothpaste can’t remove and is what your hygienist scrapes off each time), which can lead to oral diseases such as gingivitis [4], periodontitis [5], bad breath [6], and tooth decay and eventually tooth loss [7].

woman brushing teeth with charcoal

Is Your Toothpaste Doing its Job?

If you use normal big toothpaste brands such as Colgate or Crest, you are basically brushing your teeth with sweetened dish soap and fluoride. You read that right, DISH SOAP! Normal toothpaste contains a synthetic detergent chemical called sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), which is the main component of dish soap and causes it to foam up. The SLS does exactly the same thing in toothpaste that it does in dish soap—it foams up and washes your mouth to help break up fats and remove food. Sounds great, right?! Well, there is a problem. Normal toothpaste doesn’t do a great job of removing plaque, nor does it neutralize acid, so the bacteria beneath the plaque are protected from the SLS. The foaming feeling may make it feel like your teeth are getting clean, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s working that well. In addition to not doing a thorough cleaning job[8], SLS is also harmful. It irritates gums and can cause canker sores[9], gum sloughing (which is caused by SLS killing your cells)[10], and inflammation[11] and it’s not safe to swallow. Toothpaste types that contain both SLS and fluoride are actually toxic if consumed in sufficient quantities. This is especially bad for children and those with certain mental or physical disabilities who tend to swallow more toothpaste than healthy adults. This is why your toothpaste comes with a warning that says “Keep out of reach of children under 6 yrs. of age. If more than used for brushing is accidentally swallowed get medical help or contact a Poison Control Center right away.”

Since SLS is not very effective at plaque-removal, mainstream toothpaste brands attempt to compensate for this shortfall in multiple ways. Recently, toothpaste manufacturers have started using abrasives in their formulas to help remove more plaque. These abrasives used to include plastic microbeads until those were banned for environmental reasons. Now they often use calcium carbonate, magnesium carbonate, or micro silica beads, aka sand. Yes, not only does your toothpaste have dish soap, it also has SAND in it. Manufacturers basically put small beads of sand in your toothpaste as an abrasive to remove plaque. This DOES help remove more plaque, but since silica is harder than your teeth, it has the ability to scratch and damage your enamel, making your teeth more vulnerable to acids and bacteria. To mitigate this damage, manufacturers limit the amount and size of the beads they add to your toothpaste. Even still, it’s kind of like cleaning your teeth with sandpaper.

Despite these things, major toothpaste brands are still not doing a great job at removing plaque from the teeth, as we can see from statistics. According to the ADA[12], 50% of youths ages 5-17 suffer with tooth decay, yet according to a Gallup poll[12], 64% of youths brush their teeth twice per day. According to the CDC[13], 47% of adults over the age of 30 have periodontitis (late-stage gum disease), and by the time a person reaches 65 they have a 70% chance of developing periodontitis. Factors like sugar consumption, smoking, diabetes, poor oral hygiene, stress, genetics, crooked teeth, and others can contribute to the issue, but regardless, your toothpaste should still do a better job at protecting you from bad lifestyle habits and genetics.

Even natural toothpaste brands don’t do justice to your pearly whites. Many of them use as their main cleaning components, glycerin, salt, or clay which don’t do much to remove plaque. Some (but not enough!) use baking soda which is great at helping to reduce plaque and neutralize acids while protecting your enamel and freshening your breath. Studies have found that baking soda helps to decrease rates of gum disease when used in toothpaste formulas[14, 15]. (You can read more about the benefits of baking soda on your teeth in our article "Will Baking Soda Harm My Teeth?".)

Two things that natural toothpaste brands do well, that are not commonly found in mainstream toothpaste, are the inclusion of essential oils and xylitol. Essential oils of cinnamon[16], clove[17], oregano[18], and tea tree[19], as well as xylitol (which has been well-studied for oral health) have all been found to kill S. mutans, the key plaque-causing bacteria that cause tooth decay[20]. Although this can help to reduce the number of bacteria in your mouth and thereby reduce plaque formation in the long run, it won’t remove existing plaque or the bacteria it’s protecting. So, if you brush your teeth after every meal, it will gradually help stop plaque formation, but that takes time. You need something that is superior at removing plaque with each brushing to prevent tooth and gum diseases!

What Makes The Honest Tooth Different?

The Honest Tooth is a tooth cleaning powder that is formulated unlike any other toothpaste or powder. You won’t find anything else like it on the market today. Apart from using baking soda as its main ingredient, as well as containing xylitol, and essential oils of cinnamon and clove, The Honest Tooth contains a special ingredient that other tooth cleaning products do not: monolaurin.

Monolaurin is a fat that is naturally found in human breast milk, but can also be manufactured from coconuts. Coconuts are rich in lauric acid[21], and lauric acid is a component of monolaurin. Some people think that because lauric acid is abundant in coconut oil, using or eating coconut oil will provide all the oral benefits of monolaurin (detailed below). But lauric acid alone isn’t enough. Unless you’re a breastfeeding baby, you won’t have any naturally occurring source of monolaurin in your diet (even if you’re using coconut oil), so it must intentionally be added to your routine to get the benefits.

The Benefits of Monolaurin

Monolaurin has several benefits for dental health. Not only is it antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory, it’s also incredible at removing plaque quickly without damaging gums or enamel, and (unlike SLS) it’s safe to consume! The antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and antiplaque properties in particular have been the focus of many studies[22–36]. Specifically, it has been shown to inhibit and kill gram-positive[23] food-borne pathogens and infectious bacteria such as group B Strep[37], staphylococcus aureus[22–30], Listeria[35, 36], and S. mutans[32–34]. It is theorized that monolaurin kills bacteria by breaking up the cell membrane. Monolaurin also helps to break up bacterial biofilm (plaque) and prevent its formation as well[31–34], however, the mechanisms by which it works are still unknown.

In two studies, rats were given a high-sugar diet and exposed to S. mutans. They were then given either a normal diet or one that contained monolaurin for 21 days. The scientists then measured the number of cavities in the rats and found that the rats given the monolaurin had significantly fewer[31, 32]. Unfortunately, to date, no published human studies have been done specifically on the effects of monolaurin for dental health, but the in-vitro and rat study results are promising.

However, we at Evexia Science have done our own informal studies going head-to-head with normal toothpaste to compare The Honest Tooth’s plaque-removing abilities. We had participants brush their teeth as usual with their normal toothpaste, then chew a plaque stain tablet to color the leftover plaque pink. The next day we had participants brush their teeth with The Honest Tooth and chew another plaque stain tablet. We then compared the amount of plaque left over, on and in-between the teeth, with their normal toothpaste compared to The Honest Tooth. Here are the results.

In these before-and-after photos, you can clearly see that the kinds of toothpaste that the participants normally used (which included conventional and natural brands) left more plaque on the teeth than The Honest Tooth. The Honest Tooth did a superior job at cleaning and removing plaque from the teeth compared to the natural and even the big toothpaste brands.


Plaque is a major issue for dental health today which leads to a lot of dental health issues. Conventional and even natural toothpaste brands do not remove enough plaque, or bacteria, and may not neutralize acids in your mouth. We need tooth powders and pastes that remove more plaque and leave your mouth healthier, fresher, and cleaner. The Honest Tooth is a superior tooth cleaning powder that can neutralize acids, eliminate harmful microbes, and remove plaque better than leading brands of toothpaste.

Give The Honest Tooth a try today and you will see and feel the difference for yourself!

Learn more about The Honest Tooth by clicking here

► References
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