Dental plaque is a soft deposit that accumulates on the teeth. It is a sticky film of bacteria that forms on teeth. The buildup of dental plaque on teeth is a normal physiologic process, occurring in both healthy mouths and mouths with and cavities. Plaque on teeth favors the development of dental diseases. It is comprised of colonies of bacteria and other microorganisms mixed with bacteria by- products, dead cells and food residuals.
Dental plaque starts when bacteria that are usually present in the mouth attach to teeth and begin multiplying. Plaque can form on teeth both above the gum line, where it is called supra gingival plaque. Failure to remove dental plaque by regular tooth brushing allows its build up in a thick layer. As it matures, different types of microorganisms appear. At the lower layers of plaque, nearest to the tooth surface, the composition of dental plaque changes in favor of anaerobic respiration. This respiration produces acids which lead to demineralizing of the adjacent tooth surface and dental caries. With time, the acids destroy the enamel resulting in tooth decay. Irritation of the gums around the teeth leads to gingivitis, periodontal disease and tooth loss. The bacteria adhere to a clear sticky substance from saliva, called glycoprotein, which binds almost immediately to the surface of a freshly cleaned tooth. The combination of bacteria and glycoprotein on the tooth surface is called a pellicle or biofilm.
Plaque can be prevented in the following ways: