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What is Plaque?

At West Ashley Family Dentistry in Charleston, SC, we prioritize your dental health. One key aspect of maintaining a bright and healthy smile involves understanding and managing plaque. Plaque, a sticky film of bacteria, constantly forms on your teeth. Left unchecked, plaque can wreak havoc on your oral health. 

What is Plaque?

What is Plaque?

Plaque consists of a mixture of bacteria, food particles, and saliva. This biofilm clings to the surfaces of your teeth and gums. It provides an ideal environment for bacteria to thrive. As these bacteria build, they produce acids that can erode tooth enamel and irritate your gums.  

Plaque forms when bacteria in your mouth mix with carbohydrates from the food you eat. These carbs serve as a food source for bacteria, allowing them to multiply rapidly. Plaque begins to form within hours after eating and can become a more significant problem if not removed regularly.  

Unfortunately, plaque poses several risks to your oral health. It can lead to tooth decay, gum disease, and other dental problems. The acids produced by plaque bacteria can erode tooth enamel, causing cavities. Additionally, plaque can irritate and inflame the gums, leading to gingivitis, an early stage of gum disease.  

Effects of Plaque on Oral Health

Tooth decay happens when plaque acids erode the enamel on your teeth. If left untreated, this erosion can create small holes, or cavities, which may require fillings or more extensive dental work.  

Plaque can also cause gum disease, beginning with gingivitis. Symptoms of gingivitis include red, swollen, and bleeding gums. If not addressed, gingivitis can progress to periodontitis, a more severe form of gum disease that can lead to tooth loss.  

Furthermore, the bacteria in plaque produce foul-smelling compounds that can lead to bad breath. Regularly removing plaque helps maintain fresh breath.  Finally, plaque can lead to the formation of stains on your teeth. Over time, these stains can discolor your teeth, affecting the appearance of your smile.  

Consequences of Ignoring Plaque

Neglecting plaque can greatly increase your risk of developing cavities. The acids produced by plaque bacteria can create small holes in your enamel, leading to tooth decay and the need for fillings or more extensive dental treatments.  

Ignoring plaque can also result in gum infections. Untreated gingivitis can progress to periodontitis, a severe gum disease that can cause gum recession, bone loss, and eventually tooth loss.  

Failing to manage plaque can have broader health implications. Studies have linked gum disease to systemic health issues such as heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. Maintaining good oral hygiene and preventing plaque build-up not only benefits your teeth and gums but also supports your overall health. 

However, you can avoid oral and overall health issues by properly brushing and flossing your teeth. The right oral health routine can minimize plaque and protect your teeth and gums. Removing plaque reduces your chances of developing tooth decay and gum disease.