Plaque is the sticky, colorless film of bacteria that forms on teeth. It makes teeth “feel fuzzy” to the tongue and is most noticeable when teeth are not brushed.

A growing body of research also finds that bacteria and inflammation in your mouth are linked to other problems, including heart attack and dementia, and may jeopardize your overall health.

—Bacterial plaque is an adherent intercellular matrix consisting primarily of proliferating micro-organisms along with a scattering of epithelia cells, leukocytes and microphages.

—It can also be defined as soft deposits that form the biofilm adhering to the tooth surface or other hard surfaces in the oral cavity , including removable and fixed restorations


Plaque develops when foods containing carbohydrates (sugars and starches), such as milk, soft drinks, raisins, cakes, or candy are frequently left on the teeth. Bacteria that live in the mouth thrive on these foods, producing acids as a result. Over a period of time, these acids destroy tooth enamel, resulting in tooth decay. It can also develop on the tooth roots under the gum and cause breakdown of the bone supporting the tooth.

Plaque buildup can also lead to gum disease: first gingivitis, the tender and swollen gums that sometimes bleed. Over time, severe periodontal (gum) disease can develop.

Plaque Prevention

To prevent plaque buildup, brush your teeth at least twice a day with a soft, rounded-tip bristled toothbrush. Pay particular attention to the space where the gums and teeth meet. Use a fluoride-containing toothpaste.

How to brush your teeth. Hold your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to your gums while you brush. Use gentle, circular strokes about a tooth wide. Cover your whole mouth — outer and inner surfaces, and tops of your teeth. Make sure to brush your tongue to scrape away bacteria and freshen your breath as well. Spend 2 full minutes on brushing.  

You should also floss between teeth at least once a day to remove food particles and bacteria. Some of the best dental floss options include: 

  • Dental picks
  • Pre-threaded flossers
  • Small, straight brushes that fit between your teeth
  • Water flossers
  • Wooden plaque removers
  • Use an antibacterial mouth rinse to reduce bacteria that cause plaque and gum disease.
  • See your dentist or oral hygienist every 6 months for a checkup and teeth cleaning.
  • Ask your dentist if a dental sealant is appropriate for you. Dental sealants are a thin, plastic coating that are painted on the chewing surfaces of teeth to protect them from cavities and decay.
  • Eat a balanced diet and limit the number of between-meal snacks. If you need a snack, choose nutritious foods such as plain yogurt, cheese, fruit, or raw vegetables. Vegetables, such as celery, help remove food and help saliva neutralize plaque-causing acids.

Sugary foods and acidic foods cause decay. Eat them sparingly, and you’ll avoid problems. The worst offenders include: 

  • Starchy foods like potato chips and breads
  • Sticky candies that cling to your teeth
  • Carbonated soft drinks
  • Alcohol 

When you do treat yourself to one of these, drink plenty of water afterward to wash away bits of food and keep your mouth moist. Try not to snack between meals, and brush after you eat to keep your whites pearly. If you aren’t near your toothbrush after a meal, chew sugarless gum.

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