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Plaque. What is it?

Plaque. The good, the bad and the ugly.

Dental Plaque Under Microscope
Dental plaque, as seen under the microscope.

Plaque, that hidden, evil monster in your mouth has a secret. Leave it on your teeth too long and it can cause some pretty severe damage.

Ever experience bleeding, sore, or swollen gums? Well, those are some of the signs that plaque has been resting too long around your teeth and along your gum line. In fact those little “bugs” in your mouth can harden into a substance known as “tartar” in just a matter of 26 hours or so.

“Tartar” or “calculus” is a form of hardened dental plaque. It is caused by the continual accumulation of a blend of saliva, food, bacteria and the toxins released as waste from those bacteria. Its rough surface makes for an even easier place for plaque to develop into dental tartar and so creates a bit of a downward spiral for gum and tooth health.

After that aforementioned 26 hours or so, the substance on your teeth and around your gums can no longer be cleaned simply by brushing. No, after that span of time the substance hardens to the point that a professional cleaning is required to remove it.

When bleeding, soreness, and swelling of the gums occurs, you’ve already begun experiencing that horrible sounding condition: gingivitis. If these toxins around your teeth and along the gum line are not removed, it will worsen into the various stages of periodontitis. It’s not pretty but, this is what happens next: your gums, as a response to being bombarded with these toxins, begin to move away from the source of the infection (plaque), this exposes an even deeper pocket along the teeth where bacteria can easily go into. After this occurs, dental bone resorption begins (basically, the bone of the jaw, around the teeth, breaking down as a response to the infected area). If the bone resorption extends past a certain point the teeth can become mobile and as a result, could fall out.

Needless to say, when the dentist tells you that you should come in for your regular cleaning and check-up, he’s not just saying that. It is essential that plaque and tartar be removed regularly. Brushing and flossing well is of course key, BUT, there could be some areas of tartar that cannot be removed by simply brushing and flossing the area. For the sake of your smile, your teeth and your health this sticky little monster known as “Plaque” needs to be gotten rid of regularly.

Here are a couple of useful links on the subject:

Difference Between Plaque and Tartar

Commonly Used Terms

Different Types of Gum Disease

Stay healthy my friends!

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