Plaque may seem an innocuous substance, but can cause serious health problems if left untreated. It is the sticky material that tends to collect on the surface of the teeth. In extreme cases, nearly every tooth is coated with it, but more commonly it is found piled up close to the border of the gums and the teeth. It can also collect with food remains in the hollows of the premolar and molar teeth.
What is plaque?
Plaque is not a pure substance. Instead it is a mixture of decomposing food remains and bacteria, which have found a home and food source all in one. When plaque is left to build up, it can, in time, develop into a harder material called tartar. While plaque can be removed by the ordinary person, it is almost impossible and generally not advisable to try and scrape tartar off the surface of the teeth. Tartar removal is best left to a dental hygienist at your Oakville, Ontario dentist.
Plaque starts to develop when bacteria are left to invade food remains in the mouth, especially on the teeth. Plaque can be removed as it accumulates by normal dental hygiene – brushing twice a day and flossing regularly. When good dental hygiene is performed, the amount of plaque forming is balanced by the amount that is removed. Food and dietary preferences can also influence the development of plaque. Processed food like sugar and starchy food can be avoided if you are worried about plaque.
Why plaque is a problem
Plaque is a combination of food remains and the bacteria that are feeding on them. These bacteria produce an acid as a waste product. The acid slowly dissolves the outside of the teeth – the hard enamel. If there are enough bacteria present, then their acid can lead to cavities forming in the enamel. These cavities are sites of further tooth decay. Cavities need to be filled properly and it is best to do this than wait to see what happens. Cavities are places where more food remains get stuck and even more bacteria find a warm, moist and luxurious apartment with food constantly being supplied. Plaque can also cause gingivitis – the earliest stage of gum disease. Gingivitis can be easily cured in its early stages while cavities can be filled and replaced by amalgam or other less easily noticeable materials.