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What is Plaque and Why Is It Harmful?

Animated Image of Dental plaqueWhen you think about getting a cavity, sugar and junk food might come to your mind first. From a young age, your parents likely told you not to eat too much sugar because it will cause cavities to form on your teeth. And while sugar definitely plays a role in the formation of cavities, it’s not in the way you might think. In reality, bacteria is what causes cavities to form, and sugar is the perfect food for these cavity-causing microbes. If left alone long enough, the bacteria on your teeth can form plaque.

What is Plaque?

Simply put, plaque is a sticky film made up of millions of bacteria that can build up on your teeth. This film is constantly forming on your teeth because there is always bacteria present in your mouth. Bacteria can multiply rapidly, especially when fed with the right kind of food, like sugar and other junk food. Every time you eat, you give the bacteria in your mouth more opportunity to grow and spread.

How Is It Harmful?

If plaque is always forming on your teeth, isn’t it a natural thing? While plaque is a natural occurrence in the purest sense of the word, it isn’t healthy in the slightest and should always be removed as soon as possible. If you leave your plaque to grow without treating it, you may find yourself in a predicament where your oral health is steadily declining.

Plaque can cause a whole host of problems with your teeth. The simplest of these is the formation of a cavity. If left alone, the bacteria in the plaque will consistently produce acids that cause damage to your teeth’s enamel—the outermost protective layer of your teeth. However, cavities aren’t the only bad things that can happen to your mouth because of plaque buildup. You may also experience gingivitis and periodontitis, or gum disease. Eventually, plaque can turn into tartar, which is harder to remove and better at breaking down your enamel.

How Can You Prevent Plaque?

Unfortunately, as mentioned above, plaque is always forming in your mouth, and you’ll never be able to fully prevent that process from taking place. However, there are plenty of steps you can take to prevent that plaque sticking around too long.

  • Brush your teeth regularly. Everyone knows that brushing teeth prevents cavities, and that’s because you’re really removing the plaque that has begun to build up on your teeth when you brush. The act of brushing scrapes the plaque from your teeth.
  • Floss regularly. Flossing takes care of the plaque in hard-to-reach places like between your teeth.
  • Regulate your diet. Since plaque is formed from the bacteria in your mouth, it’s important to regulate what you eat. Eating a balanced diet will lessen the amount of plaque that forms on your teeth.
  • Visit your dentist regularly. Ultimately, the best way to prevent plaque buildup is by receiving comprehensive dental care from your dentist. Regular checkups and cleanings can help you remove plaque that’s too hard for you to get on your own. If you’re late for a cleaning, don’t hesitate to reach out and schedule an appointment with us today.

1 Comment

  1. Hannah Schroeder on November 21, 2017 at 3:17 am

    This article was really helpful, especially the part about how plaque can eventually lead to gingivitis and gum disease. I haven’t been the best at scheduling dentist appointments, especially since I started college two years ago, but I noticed that my gums have a tendency to bleed easily. If I already have gingivitis, then I might be one step closer to gum disease. I should probably make an appointment with a dentist soon.

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