Dental plaque is the sticky film that forms on and in between teeth. The bacterial deposits known as dental plaque break down the enamel and hard structures of the teeth, which can lead to cavities, toothache, and possible tooth loss. Recent studies also confirm that dental infections that result from plaque are also correlated with heart disease (caused by plaque in the arteries) and stroke. If dental plaque is not removed, it can harden into tartar, which is much more difficult to remove.
The bacteria in plaque release acids that attack the protective enamel coating on teeth, which eventually leads to tooth decay and cavities. Plaque is especially common near the gum line and in between teeth. For this reason, twice daily brushing and daily flossing are crucial to the removal of plaque to maintain healthy teeth and gums.
Plaque removal is especially important to the maintenance of healthy gums. When plaque builds up beneath the gum line, it can cause irritation and inflammation which can eventually lead to gingivitis or more serious gum (periodontal) disease. Gums that are irritated appear red and may also bleed easily. Plaque buildup beneath the gum line can also lead to the depletion of tooth structure and also of the bones that support the teeth.
Dental plaque is best removed through brushing the teeth at least twice a day and by daily flossing. Twice yearly professional teeth cleanings can help remove plaque that is not removed by a strong daily oral hygiene routine, but if excessive buildup of plaque is present, a dentist may need to perform scaling or root planning to remove plaque and calculus from the roots of teeth and gum pockets.