How much do you really know about dental plaque? You probably know that you're supposed to brush and floss it off of your teeth every day. But what is plaque, really? What does it do? Where does it come from, and why is it so important to keep it off of your teeth? Take a look at the details about dental plaque and find out why it's so important to keep it under control.
Plaque is a Biofilm
When you think of keeping your teeth clean, you probably think of removing food particles or stains from your teeth. But plaque isn't made from leftover bits of food. Plaque is actually a biofilm. A biofilm is a cluster of microorganisms that stick together and create an adherent covering that coats a surface.
That's right, microorganisms. Plaque isn't bits of food, it's tiny bacteria that create a filmy coating over your teeth. It's alive! You may not be able to see it or feel it – the bacteria are tiny, and it's such a thin film that your teeth might feel clean. But plaque forms every day, on all surfaces of your teeth.
Plaque Won't Wash Away
Your saliva plays a role in helping to keep your teeth clean. It washes away some of those food particles, which helps give your teeth some protection when you can't get to your toothbrush right away. But your saliva won't wash away plaque, nor will rinsing your mouth out with water.
Plaque is difficult to get rid of because it's so sticky. It will cling to your teeth tightly, and the only way to get rid of it is by brushing and flossing. You can't skip either of those steps if you want to get rid of plaque – your toothbrush gets the majority of tooth surfaces, but the bristles can't reach in-between your teeth, and plaque grows there too. Flossing is the only way to remove plaque from the surfaces of your teeth that are touching other teeth.
Plaque Leads to Tartar
It's easy to see how plaque can lead to tooth decay. The bacteria on your teeth convert sugars and starches from your food into acids that erode your tooth enamel. But plaque can also lead to something else – tartar.
Tartar is what forms when plaque that's been sitting on your teeth for awhile picks up minerals that are in your saliva that cause it to harden. Plaque may be sticky, but it's soft enough to be removed with regular brushing and flossing. Tartar, on the other hand, is too hard for your toothbrush and floss to handle. It needs to be removed with tools that your dentist has in the office. If it's not removed, it can lead to gum disease, infections, and other dental problems.
Understanding what plaque really is, and what it can do, can help inspire you to take care of your teeth. You're less likely to forget to brush when you know that tiny, sticky, organisms are forming a gummy coating over your teeth. At your next dental appointment, talk to a dentist, like Hughes Thomas R, about what more you can be doing to keep plaque under control.Share