Almost everyone knows the feeling of plaque, the teeth are bright, the breath is fresh, and the tooth surfaces feel smooth and clean. But only a brief time later, this feeling of freshness subsides, and new plaque forms. We explain how dental plaque is created, what consequences it has, and how you can tackle it best.
What is plaque?
Plaque is a structured, tough, matted plaque. This comprises saliva, bacterial metabolism products, and bacterial cells. It forms in the oral cavity primarily at the so-called “caries predilection points”:
- in dimples on the chewing surfaces,
- in the interdental spaces,
- on the tooth necks,
- and on exposed root surfaces.
Classification according to consistency
- Soft plaque: we can easily remove this fresh plaque with a toothbrush
- Hard plaque: the deposit of minerals hardens the soft covering. Professional teeth cleaning can only remove the hard plaque. The hard plaque above the gum line is called tartar. They are called concernments on the hard-to-reach root surfaces.
Classification according to location
- Supragingival plaque above the gums.
- Subgingival plaque below the gums, in the gum pockets. These deposits comprise bacteria, which, unlike the deposits above the gums, can survive without oxygen.
How is the plaque created?
Immediately after dental care, a thin film invisible to the naked eye forms on the surface of the teeth: the pellicle. This biofilm is not harmful but protects the tooth from acid and wear. It also promotes the storage of stabilizing minerals.
A layer of bacteria that belongs to the normal oral flora settles on this biofilm. More bacteria form and multiply above this layer.
These microorganisms supply each other with metabolic products and form a solid structure that turns into plaque.
Risks and Consequences of Plaque
If the bacterial plaque does not remove sufficiently, it will damage the tooth surface. The microorganisms in it metabolize sugar, producing acid. This loosens minerals from the tooth enamel, which allows the bacteria to penetrate the tooth: it creates a hole.
Inflammation of the gums and periodontal disease
The plaque bacteria cause oral flora to change bacterial metabolic products, toxins, and certain enzymes that attack the oral mucosa. An imbalance between beneficial and harmful bacteria in the oral cavity leads to inflammation of the gums.
If oral hygiene does not improve, can periodontitis develop? This disease is chronic and not only stresses the oral mucosa and the jawbone but ultimately the health of your entire organism.
Bacteria is made from odor-intensive compounds such as sulfur compounds. This leads to unpleasant bad breath.
Plaque: diagnosis and control
With the help of coloring agents, the plaque can be made visible. We call these plaque indicators or plaque levelers. Erythrosin, brilliant blue, and phloxine B are used for this.
Some plaque tests allow you to make difference between old and new plaque by different colors.
Plaque: treatment and prevention
The most important means against the settlement of aggressive germs is daily oral hygiene. If you brush your teeth regularly and thoroughly, you can counteract diseases such as tooth decay and inflammation of the gums.
- The right technique (circling, not scrubbing!) And a toothpaste containing fluoride is essential.
- Mouth rinsing solutions can delay the formation of plaque.
- Dental floss is important to clean the spaces between your teeth.
- A tongue cleaner can remove bacterial deposits from the tongue and thus reduce the bacterial load.
- Prostheses, braces, or grinding splints should also clean thoroughly.
A healthy diet also prevents plaque build-up. Avoid frequent consumption of high-sugar foods or drinks. Sugar is the food for bacteria which is processed by them into the acid, which attacks the tooth enamel.
Only professional teeth cleaning can help against tartar and plaque that sit under the gums. It can also remove this stubborn plaque with an ultrasound device called scaler. The helper can also give you tips on how you can improve your oral hygiene further and where any weak points are.