Dental plaque is a biofilm made up of microorganisms such as streptococcus and other bacteria. Plaque is a sticky, colorless film that continually forms in between and on the surface of teeth. Plaque can develop in three ways, either one at a time, or as a combination:
Supragingival- on teeth above the gum line
Subgingival- below the gum line on the roots
Gingival- along the gum line
Plaque develops when foods containing carbohydrates (sugars and starches) such as milk, soft drinks, raisins, cakes, and candy are left for extended periods of time on the surface of the teeth. Bacteria that live in the mouth thrive on these foods, producing acids as a result.
These acids begin to work at corroding your tooth’s enamel within minutes of the bacteria receiving a sugary meal. While your saliva does naturally work to decrease these acids, it will take your saliva several hours to penetrate the layer of dental plaque and neutralize these acids.
You can tell when your teeth have plaque on them by running your tongue over your teeth. If your teeth feels smooth, no plaque is present. If your teeth have a fuzzy feeling, odds are you have some plaque on your teeth. The longer dental plaque has been present on a tooth’s surface, the more capable it is of causing tooth damage.
There are some things that you can do that will reduce the amount of plaque on your teeth, thus reducing your chance of tooth decay. Begin by properly brushing your teeth twice a day (and if possible, after a very sugary meal). Floss at least once a day, gently, between every tooth. Both brushing and flossing will break up plaque that naturally accumulates on the surface of your teeth. Take the time to be thorough with your brushing and flossing. Those places that you don’t clean effectively are precisely the locations where cavities and tooth decay will be most likely to form. Routine dental care from a professional is also recommended, and you should go about once every six months.
Another way that you can reduce the amount of plaque on your teeth is by maintaining a healthy diet. Instead of drinking a lot of sugary sodas, try drinking water. Instead of grabbing a candy bar to snack on, try a more nutritious food such as plain yogurt, cheese, fruit, or raw vegetables. Vegetables, such as celery, help to not only remove plaque, but also help saliva to neutralize plaque causing acids.