Plaque is that clear, sticky substance that you can usually feel on your teeth after a long day. It may make teeth feel fuzzy or textured as opposed to smooth and polished. Plaque isn’t just bacteria—it can include food particles and mucus as well .
Needless to say, having plaque accumulate on your teeth isn’t a good thing. When plaque is left on the teeth, it can lead to oral health issues that can impact the long-term health of your smile, including gum disease and tooth decay.
How exactly does plaque lead to these oral health issues?
Plaque Sticks to Teeth and Causes Enamel Damage
When plaque sticks to teeth, it can cause damage to your tooth enamel. When you eat or drink, oral bacteria begin to break down food in the mouth, which can cause acids to form and attack tooth enamel. Fortunately, by drinking water and brushing your teeth twice a day, you can prevent plaque from causing too much damage. However, when plaque is left to sit on teeth, it can begin to break down your tooth enamel .
As tooth enamel weakens, a cavity can form. If the cavity is left untreated, bacteria can find its way inside the tooth, which is when a cavity can lead to a tooth infection and even the need for an extraction.
Built-Up Plaque Irritates the Gum Tissue
Plaque causes gum disease when it builds up around the gumline and irritates the gum tissue. This is a condition known as gingivitis, and you may notice some gum swelling and bleeding at this stage. As the gum tissue becomes more irritated, an infection can happen, which is when full-blown gum disease is present.
As plaque is the most common cause of gum inflammation, removing it regularly through carefully brushing and flossing can help keep your gum tissue healthy . When not removed, plaque can harden into a substance called tartar, which will need to be removed by your dentist.
Tooth Roots Can Also Be Affected by Plaque
Although plaque can certainly harm teeth and gums, it also affects your tooth roots, which are protected in part by your gum tissue. Plaque can build up underneath gum tissue and, once gum disease happens, cause inflammation and infection that can attack your tooth’s roots.
Tooth sensitivity, gum recession, and chronic bad breath are all signs that you may have gum disease that has impacted your tooth’s roots. In advanced stages, you may also have loose teeth as a result of affected tooth roots and jaw bone from gum disease .
How Can You Effectively Remove Plaque?
Regularly brushing and flossing your teeth are the best ways to remove plaque in addition to visiting your dentist. Your dentist will conduct a thorough cleaning to remove plaque and help keep your smile free of gum disease and tooth decay. Have questions about how you can better care for your smile by removing plaque? Ask your dentist during your next checkup!