Dental plaque is an accumulation of thin film on the outer surface of the tooth. It should not be confused with plague which is entirely different phrase. This mainly consists of microorganisms, most of which are bacteria of Streptococcus mutans species. These bacteria are not harmful to the oral cavity generally, but during some extreme conditions, these attack the surface of the tooth.
If you don’t know how to brush your teeth, then you are the most susceptible to dental plaque and its consequences.
According to studies, the carbohydrates present in the food forms a product called Dextran by the action of the bacteria, and this helps in binding of bacteria to the surface and formation of the thin layer.
Dental plaque is not seen on the occlusal or incisal surfaces but is more prominently seen near the gum lining and margins of gums near the teeth. So, dental plaque is classified into 3 sub-categories –
Supragingival – Seen on the teeth region above the gum line.
Gingival – Seen along the gum line on the teeth.
Subgingival – On the roots of teeth below the gum line.
Plaque is generally disturbed and removed by the movements of tongue and sometimes due to saliva, and rarely cheek movement also helps in removal of plaque. Regular brushing and flossing habits are also required to prevent formation and also removal of any present dental plaque.
Frequency and technique of brushing – Regular brushing keeps on cleaning the tooth surface and this does not encourage the growth of microorganisms for a prolonged time, so the plaque formation do not take place. Also, the technique of brushing has to be taken proper care of, because improper brushing techniques can leave some areas unclean and these areas are more prone to microbial growth and plaque formation.
To maintain oral health, visiting a dentist at least twice a year is advised, so that the tooth health can be checked and if any problem is seen, it can be solved at the earliest.
Eat a balanced diet of food – Have food that contains equal and required amounts of all nutrients. Having excess or reducing something can directly or indirectly affect the tooth contents. Excess of sugar in food favors growth of bacteria.
Brush with fluoride-based toothpaste – Brush your teeth with toothpastes which contain fluorides. These fluorides help in prevention of growth of bacteria and hence prevents formation of dental plaque.
Plaque is almost invisible, transparent colored film that resembles the color of tooth surface and cannot be detected by a normal person, but the dentist can recognize that by an examination.
As the patient can not directly view and detect it, brushing also does not remove the plaque as plaque containing surfaces are not checked and brushed well.
There are dental plaque disclosing tablets, and solution stains which are used to detect the plaque by staining that region indicating the presence of plaque. Use them regularly to check the presence or absence of plaque and seeing how clean your teeth are.
The first and best method is by using dental floss and run against the surface of the teeth in a regular fashion and gentle manner to remove the plaque.
One more way of removing plaque between teeth is to use a dental pick — a thin plastic or wooden stick. These sticks are available at various dental stores and drug stores.
When you visit a dentist, you would be appointed for scaling and root planing procedures for cleaning the teeth and removing the dental plaque.
Dental plaque does not directly harm the dental tissues and teeth parts, but results in some secondary conditions that affect the teeth and oral tissues. It can lead to –
- Demineralization of tooth structures like enamel layer, and formation of dental caries or tooth decay. Saliva can not penetrate the plaque to neutralize the acids which are released by the bacteria and which lead to formation of caries.
- Plaque can sometimes get mineralized and forms tartar or calculus.
- Due to irritation to the gums, Gingivitis and Periodontal disease can also occur.