What is plaque?
Plaque is a sticky film of bacteria that constantly forms on teeth. Bacteria in plaque produce acids after you eat or drink. These acids can destroy tooth enamel and cause cavities and gingivitis (gum disease).
Plaque can also develop under the gums on tooth roots and break down the bones that support teeth. Untreated plaque can harden into tough-to-remove tartar. Proper oral hygiene, including daily brushing and flossing, gets rid of plaque.
How common is plaque?
Everyone has dental plaque to some degree. If your teeth feel fuzzy when you run your tongue over them, that’s plaque.
Who may be more likely to get plaque?
Although everyone gets plaque, you may develop more plaque than usual if you:
- Consume a lot of sugary or starchy foods or drinks.
- Have dry mouth due to medications like antidepressants or conditions like Sjögren’s syndrome.
- Have a history of head/neck radiation.
What causes plaque?
Plaque forms when bacteria in your mouth mix with sugary or starchy foods, such as milk, juice, soft drinks, bread, pasta and fruit. These bacteria release acids that break down carbohydrates in food and drinks. If you don’t brush your teeth soon after eating or drinking, the combination of bacteria, acids and carbohydrates can mix into a sticky, colorless film called plaque.
What are the symptoms of plaque?
A fuzzy feeling on the teeth is the top sign that you have plaque. Other indicators include:
What are the complications of plaque?
If you don’t brush and floss daily, plaque can harden into tartar. Only a dental professional can remove tartar. Plaque and tartar can lead to:
- Gingivitis and periodontal (gum) disease.
- Severe gum infection (periodontitis).
- Tooth decay and loss.
- Tooth infection (abscessed tooth).