What is Plaque?

You may not give much thought to dental plaque on a day to day basis, but it is something that actually requires your daily attention. Have you ever run your tongue across your teeth in the late afternoon and felt a film along the bottom of your teeth? That is plaque.

Plaque is made up of millions of bacteria that congregate together in the mouth to attack food particles that have been left over after eating. These bacteria are particularly fond of sugar, so where more sugar-laden food particles remain there will be the largest number of bacteria. As these bacteria attack the sugars inside the mouth they produce acid, and this is where the damage really begins. This acid causes the demineralization (or breaking down) of the tooth enamel as it begins to eat its way through the layers of the tooth until a cavity is formed. Once a cavity has been created, it can be treated at the dentist’s office with a dental filling, but it will never heal.

Plaque can do much more significant damage than “just” cause a cavity. As plaque develops at the gum line, where the teeth meet the gums, the gums begin to become irritated from the bacteria and acids. As the bacteria and acids begin to increase in numbers, the gums become red, tender, swollen, and bleed easily – this is known as gingivitis. Gingivitis is the earliest stage of gum disease.

Gingivitis is reversible with a professional dental cleaning and treatment, along with developing better oral health care habits at home like brushing AND flossing every day. However, if gingivitis is left untreated it can turn into advanced periodontitis, which has serious consequences. Periodontitis occurs when the bacterial infection causes your gums and the bones supporting the teeth to break down. This leads to gum recession, and in serious cases tooth loss.

Plaque may seem like just an icky film on your teeth, but it is much more than that. It is a damaging accumulation of bacteria and acids that can lead to severe consequences. At Group Health Dental we want to promote your best oral health. Call to schedule an appointment for a professional teeth cleaning and treatment to remove plaque from your teeth.

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