Plaque is a sticky film of bacteria that covers our teeth and, when we eat something, these bacteria release acids that attack the tooth enamel.
When these attacks are repeated over time, the enamel will break down and this will eventually lead to cavities.
When plaque is not removed through daily brushing and cleaning it hardens into calculus or tartar. When plaque turns to tartar it can no longer be removed with a brush and floss. At this point it can only be removed by your dentist. If plaque and tartar are not removed, the gum tissue can become swollen or may bleed. This is called gingivitis and it is the early stage of periodontal (gum) disease. If this disease progresses, it can lead to pain, infection, or loose teeth.
There are several steps you can take to protect yourself against this happening:
– Brush your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste
– Clean between teeth daily with floss or stim-u-dent cleaners
– Eat a balanced diet and limit the number of snacks between meals
– Visit your dentist regularly for professional cleanings and oral exams
– Ask your dentist about sealants these are protective coatings that can be applied to the back teeth where decay often starts.
If you take steps to remove the plaque each day, you have a greater chance of avoiding tooth and gum problems in the future.