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Oral Health Buzz

Dental Plaque Germs: What You Need to Know

Laure Justice

Have you ever stopped to think about gum disease? The damage dental plaque germs cause can be permanent, but you can fight the germs with toothpaste, a toothbrush and dental floss. Read on to learn more about plaque and ways to protect your teeth and gums.

What Is Dental Plaque?

Even if your teeth look clean, they may still be accumulating plaque. Plaque is a soft, sticky germ-rich film that is constantly forming on your teeth. You can't always see plaque, and even if you recently brushed, it will continue to form on the teeth and gumline. You need to be diligent about dental care to control it. Frequent brushing and flossing is the best way to stop this source of tooth decay and gum disease.

Plaque Gets Tougher to Beat

Over time, untreated plaque will form and if it is not removed it will become a hardened layer of buildup called tartar. The combination of the plaque continuing to form on the tartar will lead to the oral infection called gingivitis. Symptoms of gingivitis include red, swollen or sore gums and sometimes bad breath can occur. Fortunately, gingivitis is typically treatable with proper brushing, flossing and seeing the dental hygienist for a preventive dentistry (i.e. professional cleaning) appointment.

If you become aware of signs of infection associated with gingivitis along your gumline, you should act quickly by enhancing your dental care regimen because you can still save your teeth during this stage. Serious damage to the bone and connective tissue does not occur until the next stage, periodontitis.

What Is Periodontitis?

Over time, unchecked dental plaque germs can cause tooth decay and gingivitis as mentioned above and can also lead to periodontitis. In periodontitis, bacteria attaches to teeth along the gumline and infection forms within the pockets surrounding the teeth.  Persistent red and swollen or bleeding gums can occur as well as receding gums, pocketing around the teeth, teeth may become loose and you may experience bad breath and now it is time to get help. At this point, you are going to need to bring in professional assistance from your dentist and dental hygienist for a thorough professional cleaning or periodontal scaling and root planing if you want to save your teeth.

Brush and floss frequently and attend regular professional dental cleanings and exams to keep plaque germs at bay. Do not hesitate to visit your dentist if you experience symptoms of gingivitis or periodontitis — gum disease should not be trifled with.

Learn more about gum disease in the Colgate Oral Care resources.

Source: Flickr/Britt Reints

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