Buildup of plaque is the main cause of tooth decay and gum disease. Long-term buildup can become tartar, which is very difficult to remove. The highly acidic nature of plaque means it can eat through your tooth enamel. It can also build up under the gum line, causing the gums to draw back from the tooth roots.
What is Plaque?
Several kinds of bacteria naturally live inside the mouth. They help with digestion, and so are necessary, but they leave behind waste products after they feed on food particles and sugars in the mouth. These waste products form a sticky, white substance called plaque. It is highly acidic and can eat through tooth enamel if left to build up on the tooth surfaces.
Plaque, if it isn’t removed by brushing or flossing, becomes tartar. Tartar is also sticky and acidic, but is brownish and harder than plaque. It clings stubbornly to the teeth and often requires a dentist’s tools to completely remove it. During your regular dental appointments, your family dentist uses metal tools to clean any tartar from your teeth.
Side Effects of Plaque Buildup
Both plaque and the bacteria that create it can build up and cause problems. The buildup of bacteria can lead to inflammation and gum disease. If left untreated, gum disease can lead to tooth loss as the gums recede and pull back from the tooth roots, leaving the roots without sufficient support.
Plaque also causes tooth decay. The acid in plaque is strong enough to eat into the enamel. In very early stages, this damage can be reversed with fluoride treatment or with fluoride in your toothpaste. As it progresses, though, the damage becomes more serious. More extensive decay must be treated with restorations, such as fillings. The decayed portion of the tooth is removed and replaced with a metal amalgam, tooth-colored resin, or porcelain. In very severe cases, the tooth might be fitted with a crown or even extracted.
If you have more questions about how to care for your teeth, call our office and talk to one of our knowledgable team members today!