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Plaque

Plaque is a sticky material containing bacteria that builds up on the teeth after eating and drinking.

Plaque can be removed with good oral hygiene, but left to build-up it turns into tartar which will need to be removed by a dentist or hygienist.

What causes plaque and why is it harmful?

Plaque develops when foods containing carbohydrates (sugars and starches) such as milk, fizzy drinks, raisins, cakes or sweets are frequently left on the teeth. Bacteria that live in the mouth thrive on these foods, producing acids as a result. Over a period of time, these acids destroy tooth enamel, resulting in tooth decay. Plaque can also develop on the tooth roots under the gum and cause breakdown of the bone supporting the tooth.

How can plaque formation be prevented?

  • To prevent plaque build-up, brush your teeth at least twice a day with a soft, rounded-tip bristled toothbrush. Pay particular attention to the space where the gums and teeth meet. Use a fluoride-containing toothpaste.
  • Floss between teeth at least once a day to remove food particles and bacteria.
  • See your dentist or oral hygienist as often as recommended for a check-up and teeth cleaning.
  • Ask your dentist if a dental sealant is appropriate for you. Dental sealants are a thin, plastic coating that are painted on the chewing surfaces of teeth to protect them from cavities and decay.
  • Eat a balanced diet and limit the number of between-meal snacks. If you need a snack, choose nutritious foods such as plain yoghurt, cheese, fruit or raw vegetables. Vegetables, such as celery, help remove food and help saliva neutralise plaque-causing acids.
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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on May 18, 2016

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