What is plaque?
Plaque is a sticky soft white film that forms on the surface of teeth. Bacteria in the plaque react (absorb and metabolize) sugars and starches in the food that we eat and use the energy to multiply.
The secretion product is a weak acid which attacks the tooth surface and demineralizes the enamel.
If left unchecked, it undermines the hard outer shell (enamel) and forms cavities underneath. This will eventually collapse and cause a large hole in the tooth/teeth.
The three main areas where decalcification (decay leading to cavities) happen are:
- The grooves on the surface of the tooth
- Between teeth, especially close to where the teeth touch
- On the base of the tooth adjoining the gum line
The plaque leads to gum disease, as the toxins secreted by the bacteria cause an inflammatory reaction in the gum, which leads to bleeding (gingivitis) or infection of the gum.
If this process persists, it leads to periodontitis, which is a chronic infection of the gum, leading to bone loss.
How to prevent cavities and tooth decay
- Brush at least twice a day with a fluoride containing toothpaste.
- Clean between the teeth by flossing, brushing vertically as well as horizontally and use interdental brushes (specialist small brushes designed specifically to clean between the teeth)
- Healthy diet avoiding too many sugary food and drinks.
- Regular six monthly visits to the dentist and hygienist.
The dentist will check for cavities and do repairs, check soft tissues for infections and oral cancer. The hygienist will clean all your teeth but more importantly, the places that you might be missing. The hygienist will also give you help, advice and tips on how to maintain good oral health.