What is plaque?

Plaque is the sticky, colorless film of bacteria that forms on teeth. It makes teeth feel "fuzzy" to the tongue and is most noticeable when teeth are not brushed.

What causes plaque and why is it harmful?

Plaque develops when foods that contain carbohydrates (sugars and starches), such as milk, soft drinks, raisins, cakes, or candy, are frequently left on the teeth. Bacteria that live in the mouth thrive on these foods and produce acids. Over a period of time, these acids destroy tooth enamel, resulting in tooth decay. Plaque can also develop on the tooth roots under the gum and cause breakdown of the bone supporting the tooth.

How can plaque formation be prevented?

  • Brush your teeth at least twice a day, one of the two times for 2 minutes. Use a soft, rounded-tip bristled toothbrush, preferably electric. Pay particular attention to the space where the gums and teeth meet. Use toothpaste that contains fluoride.
  • Floss between teeth at least once a day to remove food particles and bacteria.
  • See your dentist or oral hygienist at least every 6 months for a check-up and teeth cleaning.
  • Ask your dentist if a dental sealant is appropriate for you. A dental sealant is a thin, plastic coating that is painted on the chewing surfaces of teeth to protect them from cavities and decay.
  • Eat a balanced diet and limit the number of between-meal snacks. If you need a snack, choose nutritious foods such as plain yogurt, cheese, fruit, or raw vegetables. Vegetables, such as celery, help remove food and help saliva neutralize plaque-causing acids.

© 1995-2017 The Cleveland Clinic Foundation. All rights reserved.

This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 4/11/2017...#10953