Dental plaque

What is dental plaque?

Dental plaque is a biofilm, consisting of mostly bacteria, which sticks to the surface of teeth. It is typically white or colourless and has a soft consistency. If not cleaned, plaque can result in inflammation of the gums and dental caries. The plaque can harden over time, forming calculus or tartar, which requires removal by your dentist or dental hygienist.

What causes dental plaque?

Dental plaque naturally forms on your teeth following eating and drinking. Bacteria stick to saliva on your teeth, and gradually accumulate to form a film. The moist, warm oral environment provides an optimal environment for plaque to form. Infrequent brushing and flossing allow plaque to build up and mature. Having sugary or acidic food and drink causes the pH of the mouth to drop, which can result in further destruction by plaque.

How to prevent dental plaque?

To prevent dental plaque, you must properly maintain your oral hygiene.
  • Brushing your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste will not only reduce the chance of plaque build-up, but it will also prevent tartar from developing. Your dentist may recommend a prescription toothpaste, which contains a higher fluoride content.
  • Flossing or using interdental brushes regularly is important as it cleans the plaque away from the surfaces which your toothbrush cannot reach.

How to spot dental plaque/ symptoms?

Plaque is typically a soft off-white, clear or yellow substance that builds up around the base of the front and back of teeth as well as the gum line. Disclosing tablets are a useful tool used after brushing your teeth, for spotting plaque. The disclosing tablet uses a dye that clings to residual plaque after you have brushed your teeth, highlighting the areas which you will need to brush again.

You may notice symptoms that are a result of untreated plaque, it might present as:

  • Tartar, a hard substance made from calcified plaque.
  • Tooth decay because of acid destruction.
  • Bleeding gums because of gingivitis, an inflammation of the gum.

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