The feeling of plaque, also called plaque, is familiar to almost everyone: The teeth have just been brushed, the breath is fresh and the tooth surfaces feel smooth and clean. But only a short time later this feeling of freshness diminishes and new plaque forms. We explain how plaque develops, what its consequences are and how you can best deal with it.
The plaque is a structured, tough, felted plaque. It consists of saliva, bacterial metabolic products and bacterial cells. In the oral cavity, it preferentially forms at the so-called “caries predilection sites”:
- in dimples on the chewing surfaces,
- in the interdental spaces,
- on the tooth necks,
- and on exposed root surfaces.
Classification according to consistency
- Soft plaque: these fresh plaque deposits can easily be removed with a toothbrush.
- Hard plaque: the soft coating hardens due to the storage of minerals. The hard plaque can only be removed by professional tooth cleaning. Hard plaque is called calculus above the gum line. They are called calculus on the root surfaces that are difficult to reach.
Classification according to localization
- Supragingival plaque: above the gums.
- Subgingival plaque: below the gums, in the gum pockets. These plaque layers consist of bacteria that, unlike plaque layers above the gums, can survive without oxygen.
How does plaque develop?
Immediately after dental care, a thin film, invisible to the naked eye, forms on the surface of the teeth: the pellicle. This biofilm is not harmful, but protects the tooth from acid and wear. It also promotes the storage of stabilising minerals.
On this biofilm a bacterial layer settles, which belongs to the normal oral flora. Further bacteria form and multiply above this layer.
These microorganisms supply each other with metabolic products and form a solid structure that becomes plaque.
Risks and consequences of plaque
If the bacterial plaque is not sufficiently removed, the tooth surface is damaged. The microorganisms in the plaque metabolize sugar and produce acid. This dissolves minerals from the tooth enamel, allowing the bacteria to penetrate the tooth: a hole is formed.
gingivitis and periodontitis
Plaque bacteria cause the oral flora to change: bacterial metabolites, toxins and certain enzymes attack the oral mucosa. An imbalance between beneficial and harmful bacteria in the oral cavity leads to inflammation of the gums.
If oral hygiene is not improved, periodontitis may develop. This disease is chronic and affects not only the oral mucosa and jawbone, but ultimately the health of your entire organism.
Bacteria form odour-intensive compounds such as sulphur compounds. This leads to unpleasant bad breath.
Plaque: diagnosis and control
Plaque is made visible with the aid of dyes. These are called plaque indicators or plaque levelers. Erythrosine, brilliant blue and phloxin B are used for this.
Some plaque tests make it possible to distinguish between old and new plaque using different colours.
Plaque: treatment and prevention
Daily oral hygiene is the most important means against the colonisation of aggressive germs. If you brush your teeth regularly and thoroughly, you can counteract diseases such as tooth decay and gingivitis.
- The right technique (circle, don’t scrub!) and a fluoride-containing toothpaste are the be-all and end-all.
- Oral rinsing solutions can delay the formation of plaque.
- Dental floss is important for cleaning the interdental spaces.
- With a tongue cleaner, bacterial deposits on the tongue can be removed, thus reducing the bacterial load.
- Prostheses, braces or grinding splints should also be thoroughly cleaned.
A healthy diet also prevents the formation of plaque. Avoid frequent consumption of foods or drinks with a high sugar content. Sugar is the food for bacteria, and is processed by them into acid, which attacks the enamel.
Professional tooth cleaning is the only way to prevent tartar and plaque from forming underneath the gums. These unruly plaque can also be removed with an ultrasound device or so-called scaler. The assistant can also give you tips on how you can improve your oral hygiene and where any weak points lie.