What Is Plaque and Why Is It Bad?
You've heard your dentist and TV commercials talk about plaque. But do you know what plaque actually is, and why it's bad for you?
While most people know that plaque should be brushed away at least twice a day to prevent cavities, many patients ask why mouth rinse is not enough to kill all the bacteria.
Dental plaque is actually a sticky substance called a microfilm, made up of an entire community of bacteria, as well as a protective layer that allows them to survive antibacterial rinses.
How Does Plaque Harm Your Teeth and Gums?
Plaque-causing bacteria feed on sugar and other carbohydrates, breaking them down into acids, which demineralize, or “soften” the enamel and other tooth structures. This leads to the disease dental caries, otherwise known as decay or cavities.
Also, the presence of plaque near the gums initiates an inflammatory response, causing redness, pain, swelling, and bleeding of the gums. This is called gingivitis, and can progress to the surrounding bone, a condition called periodontitis, which can in turn lead to tooth loss.
How Do You Prevent and Get Rid of Plaque?
Limiting sugar intake, especially in the form of sugary drinks or sticky candies, helps to prevent plaque formation.
Once it has formed though, plaque must be physically removed by brushing and flossing! Attempting to remove plaque by rinsing alone is just not effective enough, even with strong antibacterial chemicals.
Plaque can also take up calcium and other minerals in your saliva to become tartar, also called calculus, a hard substance that cannot even be removed by brushing.
Make sure to visit your dentist for regular cleanings to remove tartar and prevent periodontal disease!