Plaque is a thin, sticky film that is full of the oral bacteria that can cause tooth decay and gum disease. When plaque is present in the mouth, the bacteria can attack the enamel creating holes in the teeth, which we know as cavities.
If plaque continues to collect in the mouth, tartar will form. This is a calcified whitish material that tends to accumulate along the gum line. Although tartar can form in a matter of days, it can continue to build in the absence of adequate oral care by a dentist and dental hygienists, in addition to the patient’s oral care routine at home. Eventually, tartar can lead to gum disease by giving the bacteria easy access to the gums.
Long-term plaque buildup has significant consequences for your dental health. Untreated gum disease can progress to the point at which it threatens the attachment of the tooth and stability of the bone, possibly resulting in tooth loss.
The ramifications can affect other systems in your body, as well. Inflammation associated with gum disease, caused by the bacteria found in plaque and tartar, has been linked with other conditions like heart disease and diabetes.
Patients may believe that brushing and flossing is sufficient to control plaque and avoid visits to the dentist, but your home oral hygiene habits are far from sufficient to protect you against the potentially harmful effects of this substance.
Regular semi-annual appointments with your dentist are also essential in the battle against plaque. These routine visits include prophylaxis, which is the technical term for the professional cleanings performed by a dental hygienist.
Even the most conscientious brushers and flossers may not be able to eliminate all traces of plaque from their mouths, and the dental hygienist is capable of using specialized instruments to remove any plaque and tartar that remain.
Controlling the levels of plaque in your mouth can have enduring benefits for your oral health and your overall well-being. Reducing long-term plaque build-up is a compelling reason to see your dentist every six months and can provide an extra dose of motivation for those who might be tempted to postpone dental appointments.