What Is Dental Plaque

What is Dental Plaque?

Dental Plaque

What exactly is dental plaque?

There are many toothbrushes on the market, many tooth pastes, floss types, mouthwashes etc., and most of these advertise the removal of dental plaque. While this is a good thing, don’t get me wrong, there is, however, no real description of what this thing is that you are wanting to remove. I wanted to go into what dental plaque is and why it’s a good thing to remove from your teeth and along your gums.

Dental plaque is a sticky, whitish-opaque substance that forms along the gum line and on the teeth. You may have felt it with your tongue on your teeth before after not having brushed for a little while. This substance is a combination of several different things: bacteria, food particles, bacterial waste, and saliva. The bacteria in plaque, and the waste they produce from  the food particles in your mouth, can do a lot of damage to teeth and gums if left alone. Dental plaque can also harden into tartar or dental calculus.

Dental Calculus
Image of tartar (dental calculus) on teeth.

The above is an image of what can occur if plaque is left too long on teeth without being cleaned off. You’ll also be able to see, in the above image, the dark red, swollen area of the gums along the perimeter of the dental tartar. Redness and swelling are indicative of infection. Gum disease, gingivitis, periodontitis…these are all infections, in essence. The fact that they are bacterial infections prompts your body to react strongly to plaque and dental calculus. The gums will start to retract away from the infectious source, and even the bone surrounding the teeth will begin to resorb (essentially dissolve itself), to get away from the infection. This will eventually cause teeth to become loose, and eventually come out. The bacteria that contribute to plaque also help to create bad odors in the mouth as well.

In terms of the teeth, dental plaque and the bacterial waste produced by the bacteria that contribute to that plaque, can also decay the enamel, the outer shell of your teeth. When they begin to do this, the decay in your teeth becomes what is known as a cavity. The bacteria can actually go through the enamel in the teeth and into the second layer of the tooth, the dentin. After going through the dentin layer, it will arrive at the nerve, causing an infected root. After a root is infected with bacteria, you will need Root Canal Therapy.

So, as you can see, dental plaque and some of it’s components can do a very great deal of damage to your mouth and health. This is the reason we want you to brush your teeth twice a day and to floss. If the bacteria remains on your teeth it will start destroying the tissue under and around it. We want to help prevent that. The dental tartar, or calculus, cannot be removed with a tooth brush. It’s for this reason that it’s extremely important to receive regular check ups and cleanings at the dentist office. We have special tools designed to remove this hard buildup from the teeth and around the gums. Also, if the bacteria has already caused damage to the teeth and gums, we have the tools here to repair that damage so we can get you’re mouth in a healthier state.

That’s almost all…

There are specific mouthwashes that are designed to help keep plaque off of the teeth through the day. Some tooth pastes also were designed this way. If you find that you regularly get heavy plaque build-ups during the day, it may benefit you to use these types of products. Fluoride is also very beneficial, as it will help remineralize teeth, which is helpful for the prevention of tooth decay.

Floss is important as, toothbrushes can’t really clean well in between the teeth. So, in order to remove the plaque in between the teeth, floss is used.

I hope I helped clear up what dental plaque is!

Here’s a great video that helps explain visually what plaque is and what it does:

Link to ADA site.

Stay healthy my friends.



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