What is Dental Plaque? | Smile Stories

What is Dental Plaque?

Dental plaque is a sticky layer that develops on your teeth and affects everyone. Daily brushing and flossing, as well as regular trips to the hygienist are essential to keep it at bay. If left untreated, plaque has the potential to result in cavities, gingivitis, and various other oral health issues.

Plaque is a term commonly heard during dental visits, but what exactly is plaque, and why is it important to address it? At Smile Stories, we believe that empowering our patients with knowledge is key in promoting optimal oral health. So, we’ll unravel the mystery behind plaque, what causes it, and the importance of proactive dental care.

what is dental plaque

What is plaque?

Plaque is a sticky, colourless film of bacteria that forms on your teeth and gums. Plaque affects everyone, and naturally forms throughout the day as a result of saliva, food particles and bacteria building up in the mouth. Although everyone has dental plaque to some degree, when it is not effectively removed through proper oral hygiene practices, plaque can be a real problem for your teeth and gums.

What is dental plaque made of?

Dental plaque is the bacteria in your mouth that feeds on food debris like sugars and carbohydrates when we eat. This breaks the food down into a sticky, acidic film that forms a layer over the teeth.

What does plaque look like?

Dental plaque is colourless until it builds up then appears white, however it can change in colour depending on the types of foods and drinks you consume which stick to the plaque particles. Drinks like tea, coffee and red wine are the main culprits when it comes to staining plaque and making it become visible. 

Causes of dental plaque

How does plaque form?

Plaque formation begins when the bacteria in your mouth combine with the sugars and starches from the food you consume. This interaction produces acids that attack the enamel, the protective outer layer of your teeth. Over time, if not removed through regular brushing and flossing, plaque hardens into tartar, a more stubborn and damaging substance.

What is tartar?

Tartar, also known as dental calculus, is hardened plaque. If you don’t remove plaque regularly through everyday brushing and flossing, it will turn into tartar which can’t be brushed or flossed away. Only a dentist or hygienist can remove tartar, so it’s important to prevent it as much as you can. 

Why does plaque matter?

Tooth decay

Over time, plaque acids weaken the enamel on your teeth, leading to cavities and tooth decay.

It is extremely important to have regular dental health checks to detect and address early signs of decay, so it can be treated as quickly as possible.

Gum disease

The buildup of plaque can irritate and inflame the gums, leading to gingivitis, which if left untreated can progress to periodontitis, a more severe form of gum disease that can result in tooth loss.

Bad breath

The bacteria in plaque release bad-smelling gases, contributing to persistent bad breath.

Maintaining good oral hygiene is crucial to avoid bad breath caused by plaque.

Formation of tartar

When plaque hardens into tartar, it becomes difficult to remove through regular brushing.

Smile Stories offers professional cleaning services to effectively remove tartar and prevent further complications, however prevention is always beneficial.

How to prevent dental plaque 

Daily brushing

Brush your teeth at least twice a day for two minutes using fluoride toothpaste. We recommend using a soft-bristled electric brush to avoid damaging your enamel.

Regular flossing

Floss daily to remove plaque and food particles from between your teeth. Proper flossing techniques are essential to get as much food debris out from the gaps in your teeth. 

Chew sugarless gum

If you can’t brush soon after eating or drinking, chew sugar-free gum to help get left over debris out from between your teeth.

Regular dental check ups

Schedule regular check-ups with Smile Stories for professional cleanings and comprehensive dental checks.  Early detection of plaque will ensure that intervention can happen at the right time, preventing the progression of dental issues related to plaque.

Healthy diet

Try to limit sugary and starchy foods as they contribute to the buildup of plaque. A balanced diet rich in calcium is advised for optimal oral health.

What happens if plaque is not removed?

If you don’t remove plaque through regular dental cleanings and daily brushing and flossing, it can cause serious dental conditions like cavities or gum disease. Proper oral hygiene and maintenance can help you prevent these issues.

How to treat dental plaque

The good news is, there are ways that a dentist or hygienist can remove plaque and tartar from your teeth during your health check. We also may also recommend:

  • Dental sealants to keep plaque from forming on the surfaces of your teeth.
  • Fluoride treatments to slow the growth of plaque-causing bacteria 
  • Prescription toothpaste or antibacterial mouthwash.

In the battle against plaque, knowledge is your greatest ally. Through understanding what plaque is and what steps you can take to prevent it from becoming a real problem, you take a proactive step towards preserving your oral health.

At Smile Stories, our personalised oral care plans are integral to our approach to preventive dentistry. As your dedicated dentist in Bournemouth, we strive to create a welcoming environment where you can confidently address your oral health concerns, so why not get in touch for a free health report or a chat. 

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