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:
- Brushing the teeth at least twice a day with a soft rounded toothbrush. Particular attention should be put to the space where the gums and the teeth meet. A toothpaste containing fluoride should be used.
- The teeth should be flossed at least once a day to remove food particles and bacteria
- A dentist/ oral hygienist should be visited every six months for a check- up and teeth cleaning.
- Ask your dentist if a dental sealant is appropriate for you. Dental sealants are thin, plastic coatings that are painted on the chewing surfaces of teeth to protect them from cavities and decay.
- A balanced diet should be eaten and a limit in the number of snacks. Snacks should be foods such as plain yoghurt, cheese, fruit or raw vegetables. Vegetables such as celery help remove food and help saliva neutralize plague- causing acids.