Dental plaque is a sticky milk-coloured deposit that coats the surfaces of teeth and tongue which can be removed largely by routine cleaning of the mouth. It is a sticky film of bacteria that often forms on teeth. Bacteria in plaque produce acids from sugary food. The acids produced can weaken tooth enamel and create cavities and gum problems. Plaque can also form under the gums on tooth roots and break down the bones that support teeth. The best time to check for plaque on the teeth is when you wake up from sleep. It makes the teeth surfaces feel rough when the tongue is run across them{teeth}. The colour of dental plaque does vary from greyish white to light yellow and even slightly red because of food, medication and blood. if dental plaque is not removed regularly it can cause the gum to bleed easily on slight provocation, reddish and swollen. It can also cause bad breath. Keep in mind that calcified or hardened dental plaque is what gives rise to tartars.

Unlike plaque, tartars are hard to remove. Proper oral hygiene, including daily brushing and flossing, gets rid of plaque.

Prevalence of plaque

Dental plaque is present in every mouth irrespective of the age of the individual. Everyone has dental plaque to some extent. If your teeth feel rough when you run your tongue over them, that’s plaque.

Risk factors for plaque accumulation

Although everyone gets plaque, you may form more plaque than normal if you:

  • Consume a lot of sugary or starchy foods or drinks.
  • Have a dry mouth.
  • Have a history of head/neck radiation.
  • Smoke.
  • Poor oral hygiene.

Where does plaque come from?

Plaque devels when bacteria in the mouth mix with sugary or starchy foods, like biscuits, ice cream, assorted drinks, cakes, and fruit. These bacteria release acids from the consumption of sugar to break down carbohydrates in food and drinks. If the teeth are not brushed routinely, the combination of bacteria, acids and carbohydrates can mix into a sticky, colourless film called plaque.

Symptoms of plaque accumulation

A fuzzy feeling on the teeth is the top sign that you have plaque. Other indicators include:

  • Chronic bad breath
  • Red, swollen, tender gums that bleed after brushing or on slight provocation.

Complications of plaque accumulation

If you don’t brush and floss daily, plaque can harden into tartar. Only a dental professional can remove tartar. Plaque and tartar can lead to:

  • Tooth decay.
  • Gingivitis and periodontal (gum) disease.
  • Severe gum infection.
  • Tooth loss.
  • Gum abscess.

Plaque removal

Good oral hygiene, including regular brushing and flossing, removes plaque and prevents tartar buildup. During a dental examination, your dental professional will scrape plaque and tartar from your teeth. Your provider may also recommend:

  • Prescription toothpaste or antibacterial mouthwash,
  • Increase saliva production.

Prevention of plaque accumulation

Good tooth and gum care is key to reducing plaque. You should:

  • Prescription toothpaste and mouth wash
  • Floss daily: Floss once a day with dental floss or a water flosser to get rid of food and plaque stuck between teeth. Studies show that flossing before brushing teeth removes more plaque.
  • Brush twice a day: Brush teeth for two minutes with a soft-bristled toothbrush (manual or powered) and fluoride toothpaste. Brush at least twice a day, and preferably after every meal.
  • Chew sugarless gum: If you can’t brush soon after eating or drinking, chew sugar-free gum. Choose a kind that has the American Dental Association (ADA) seal.
  • Choose healthy foods: Cut back on sugary, starchy foods and drinks. Instead, choose nutritious foods and snacks such as plain yogurt, cheese, raw vegetables or fruit.
  • See your dentist: Get dental checkups at least twice a year.
  • Use mouthwash: Rinse with an over-the-counter or prescription antiseptic mouthwash.

Prognosis of plaque

Everyone has mouth bacteria that cause plaque. With proper oral hygiene, you can remove plaque and prevent serious dental problems.

Because plaque can cause cavities, tartar and gum disease, regular dental checkups are a must. If plaque and tooth decay go undetected and untreated, you could develop a painful gum infection or lose teeth.

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