What is Dental Plaque?

You’re probably aware that dental plaque is the sticky, yellow substance that forms naturally on teeth. We brush our teeth to remove plaque so that it doesn’t cause cavities, gum disease, and bad breath. Un-removed plaque calcifies into a hard substance called calculus or tartar. At dental cleanings, a hygienist removes plaque that we miss during brushing and calculus, which can’t be removed by brushing, flossing, and proxy brushing. When calculus forms below the gum line, a deep cleaning with scaling and root planing may be recommended.

What is dental plaque made of?

Plaque is a complex microbial community with more than 10,000,000,000 bacteria per milligram, according to this UCLA website. About 400 different types of bacteria are in dental plaque, but plaque also contains other cells in a complex matrix. Saliva and bacterial products combine to make this matrix, which also contains proteins, lipids (fats), and polysaccharides (sugars). The recipe for dental plaque includes calcium and phosphorus, as well.

How do we get rid of plaque?

Dental plaque occurs naturally, and it actually has a hand in boosting our immune system’s disease resistance. However, teeth don’t shed their outer layer like skin does. Therefore, when bacterial plaque builds up on teeth, we have to remove it ourselves. The idea is to control dental plaque. Flossing once a day, brushing twice a day, and limiting starches and sugars (especially between meals) are key to reducing plaque buildup.

What’s the worst that can happen?

If bacterial biofilm and calculus are left on teeth, oral health declines. Cavities and gum disease run rampant, and gum and bone tissue can die away. Infection can spread into the bloodstream and cause overall health problems ranging from heart disease, stroke, impotence,  to dementia and diabetes complications. Forty percent of cases of infective endocarditis are caused by bacteria from the mouth. Teeth will loosen and fall out. It’s not a pretty picture.

How can Dr. Fondriest help me control dental plaque?

Plan to visit Lake Forest Dental Arts every six months for checkups and cleanings. If you’re prone to excessive plaque buildup, we may recommend special oral healthcare products for use at home. Should you have gingivitis or a more serious case of gum disease, we’ll work with you to design a treatment plan that will control the disease, stop progress, and restore any damage.