You may have heard of plaque and understand that it's bad for your dental health, but what exactly is it? What conditions are caused by plaque? We're here to cover everything you need to know about plaque buildup and empower you to prevent it from progressing into other dental problems.
Dental Plaque Germs: What You Need to Know
Medically Reviewed By Colgate Global Scientific Communications
What Is Dental Plaque?
Plaque is the sticky material that continually forms on your teeth, especially after snacks, meals, and drinks. This thin film contains bacteria (that some call dental germs) that can cause dental problems by releasing acid.
Bacteria feed on the sugars and starches in your diet and help break down carbohydrates with the acid it releases. Along with the acid and carbohydrates, these bacteria combine to make what we call plaque (also known as biofilm).
Risk factors for plaque buildup and related problems include:
- Improper dental hygiene
- Diet high in sugary or starchy foods or drinks
- Medical history of radiation therapy
- Smoking and the use of tobacco products
- Dry mouth
Plaque Gets Tougher to Beat
It's essential to prevent the dental and health problems associated with plaque buildup by removing it regularly. This is best accomplished through a dental routine that includes brushing and cleaning between your teeth.
It’s crucial to stay on top of plaque buildup because if it’s not removed, plaque will harden into tartar. Tartar contributes to gum disease and requires the help of a dental professional to remove it properly.
What role does plaque (containing bacteria or dental germs) have in teeth removal? Untreated plaque buildup contributes to serious health conditions, some of which may require removing your teeth.
If plaque is not adequately and regularly removed, it can lead to:
- Bad breath
- Tartar buildup
- Weakened enamel
- Tooth infection, decay, or loss
- Gum disease (gingivitis and periodontitis)
- Pain or bleeding when brushing or flossing
Gum disease (also known as periodontal disease) may go undetected as it’s typically painless. Despite this, it can cause serious dental and health problems and should be taken seriously as it will get harder to treat as it progresses.
Gum disease has two main stages:
- Gingivitis: In the early stage, this form of the disease can cause your gums to become inflamed, red, or swollen. You may also experience bleeding or pain when brushing or flossing. These symptoms are typically reversible through proper dental care and diet.
- Periodontitis: This advanced form of gum disease can cause tissue and bone loss, and you may experience it even if you’re otherwise healthy. At this level of progression, your teeth may loosen, and the pain or discomfort may progress.
Because it can be challenging to recognize or diagnose gum disease on your own, it’s a great idea to schedule regular visits to your dental professional.
Treatment and Prevention
When it comes to plaque, treatment and prevention overlap greatly. The best method to prevent conditions like gum disease and tooth decay from developing or worsening is proper dental hygiene. This includes healthy habits, a balanced diet, and regular visits to your dental professional.
Tartar, gum disease, cavities, infection, and tooth loss will require your dental professional's help to treat. To avoid this, it’s vital to consume a healthy diet and practice a dental routine that thoroughly removes plaque before it causes problems in the first place.
Steps to prevent plaque buildup and associated problems include:
- Gently clean your teeth for two minutes twice daily using a soft-bristled brush
- Clean between your teeth once a day using a flossing device or interdental brush
- Use toothpaste, mouth wash, or water that contains fluoride
- Avoid sugary and starchy items in favor of a balanced diet
- Limit snacking between meals
- Chew sugar-free gum or consume dairy products to promote saliva production that helps protect your mouth
- Medications to increase saliva production may be helpful if you suffer from dry mouth
- Use antibacterial mouthrinse after meals or brushing to help prevent gum disease
- Schedule regular visits with your dental professional
Dental plaque is connected to numerous dental conditions, some of which are severe. Your best bet is to prevent problems from getting worse or happening in the first place by practicing proper dental care and a balanced diet. By visiting your dental professional regularly, but you'll be making a great choice for your health and help prevent serious issues down the line.
This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.