Patient Education

What is Dental Plaque?

Plaque is a sticky film of bacteria that forms on teeth and gums. Following a meal or snack, the bacteria in plaque release acids that attack tooth enamel. Repeated attacks can cause the enamel to weaken, eventually causing tooth decay. Many of the foods we eat cause plaque bacteria to produce acids. If you snack often, you could be having acid attacks all day long. Plaque that is not removed with thorough daily brushing and cleaning between teeth can eventually harden into calculus or tartar.

Plaque also produces substances that irritate the gums, making them red, tender or bleed easily. After a while, gums may pull away from the teeth. Pockets form and fill with more bacteria and pus. If the gums are not treated, the bone around the teeth can be destroyed. The teeth may become loose or have to be removed. In fact, periodontal (gum) disease is a main cause of tooth loss in adults.

One way to prevent tooth decay and periodontal (gum) disease is by eating a balanced diet and limiting the number of between-meal snacks. If you need a snack, choose nutritious foods such as raw vegetables, plain yogurt, cheese or a piece of fruit.