Toothpaste commercials usually use two phrases unendingly, so that it is now burnt into the minds of an entire generation: dental plaque and gingivitis. The problem is that these commercials do not offer an explanation of what these things are, how they affect your teeth, how to get rid of them; they are just seen as some brown spots on the television screen, or possibly a forgettable cartoon character. But what is dental plaque really? And why is it bad for your teeth? Get some in-depth answers below.
What is dental plaque?
Dental plaque is the accumulated habitus of bacteria. It is bacterial colonies that are present in such a large number that they become visible to the naked eye. It looks like yellowish, whitish gunk that is stuck to the tooth surfaces and collects primarily in the gaps between teeth. These are both the bacterial colonies themselves, and their “houses” (or more like cities, actually), as bacteria create a biofilm that allows them to stick to physical objects and become unmovable. An accumulation and hardening of the biofilm is dental plaque. This dental plaque, because it is teeming with bacterial life that excretes acids that eat away at the enamel of the teeth, is the cause of tooth decay and gum diseases like gingivitis and periodontitis.
The three stages of dental plaque:
- Biofilm: At first, the plaque just looks like stickier, denser saliva. The bacteria secrete this biofilm, and move around with it, live in it, and stick to possible homes with it. They also digest food in this biofilm.
- Dental plaque: The accumulated layers upon layers of biofilm solidify into plaque, that whitish yellowish gunk that you can get between your teeth and underneath your gums.
- Tartar: The brownish, hard tartar that stains your teeth and sticks to them. This is a calcified plaque layer that bacteria still live in.
How to get rid of it?
The problem is that dental plaque is already a sign of a lot of bacteria being present in the mouth. Even if you remove the plaque, there will still be bacteria in the mouth, which is why you need a deep cleaning hygiene session once every six months or so, to get rid of all traces of bacterial life from your teeth and gums. Although brushing at least twice a day, using dental floss and mouthwash will kill most of the bacteria, and will definitely remove dental plaque, sometimes they can stick to teeth really hard, and need the intervention of a dentist in order to remove them completely.