Plaque is a yellowish film that builds up on the surface of the teeth. The film is composed of bacteria, which feed on the sugars in your food. As the bacteria grow, it produces acid as a waste by-product.
The prevention of plaque buildup is one of the main goals of your dentist. Professional dental cleanings on a regular basis help in the fight against plaque formation. If left unattended, plaque buildup can have serious long-term consequences.
Plaque causes cavities. As the bacteria in the plaque produces more and more acid, the enamel of your teeth loses its ability to repair itself. Holes will eventually form, exposing the under-layers of the teeth and leading to painful cavities.
When plaque is allowed to accumulate, it will start to harden into a substance known as tartar. Tartar is much more difficult to remove. Tartar can also spread below the gum line, leading to gum disease.
Gum disease, also known as periodontitis, is an infection of the gums that causes bleeding and swelling. If left untreated, gingivitis can spread to the bone underneath the teeth and lead to tooth loss.
Studies also reveal a link between gum disease and heart disease, as well as between gum disease in pregnant women and low birth weight babies.
Plaque is not a stationary substance. It spreads over the teeth as it grows, and will make its way under the gums. Plaque buildup is dangerous not only to your teeth, but also to your gums, jaw bone, and even your heart.
It is essential that you maintain a routine of brushing at least twice a day and daily flossing. Both actions help keep plaque under control. It is also important to eliminate or reduce the amount and frequency of sugary food and drink consumption.
Finally, visit your dentist regularly (the exact frequency will vary from patient to patient, but is usually every three to six months). Your dental health team will be able to remove plaque that brushing and flossing have missed.