How does plaque cause tooth decay?

Abraham Speiser

Tooth decay is a bacterial disease, which destroys teeth. Teeth are 95% calcium salts and 5% protein. If plaque (the bacterial source) is left in place on your teeth or between your teeth, these bacteria generate ACID and ENZYMES. The ACID dissolves the calcium salts out of the tooth structure. Hard tooth structure, with its shiny surface, then becomes soft with a dull surface, like chalk. This is known as a white spot or white lesion. The structure of the tooth, which originally held onto the calcium, is protein. The bacterial ENZYMES then dissolve the protein. When the calcium is gone and the protein is gone, there is a hole (a cavity).

Plaque is essentially colonized bacteria living on your tooth (yuck!) Left alone, it eats away at the enamel, causing holes (cavities). The way to prevent plaque is to simply remove it -- brushing it away, flossing, water pic, etc.
Plaque (that almost invisible bacteria laden stuff the dentist is always telling you to brush and floss away) left on the teeth habours bacteria that produce acids that leach out mineral just below the surface of the tooth producing "sinkholes."

If the minerals are not put back (there are ways of doing it) the suface enamel collapses into the "sinkhole" causing the cavity (hole) in the tooth.

Plaque is bacteria in your mouth that sticks on your teeth. They feed off of the sweets that you consume and produce acid. The acid eats into the tooth causing a hole. The hole is called decay or dental caries. Proper brushing, flossing, and limiting sweets can help prevent tooth decay.

Plaque is a cluster of natural bacteria that form on your teeth daily. When not removed with proper brushing and flossing, bacteria digest the food and drink residues left on your teeth, releasing an acidic byproduct. This acid then slowly dissolves and penetrates through your enamel, causing tooth decay.
Plaque is mainly composed of living bacteria. These bacteria ingest any remaining sugars that are left in the mouth and convert them to acids. The acids remove the hard minerals, primarily calcium, from the tooth surface. Long term exposure to acids removes enough minerals to leave a cavity or hole in the tooth.

Plaque is essentially a sugar produced by bacteria that allows the bacteria to adhere to teeth. Bacteria cannot attach themselves to smooth surfaces in the mouth. Thus, if you are able to maintain good and frequent oral hygiene you will have minimal plaque buildup. Once the bacterial produce the plaque they stick to the teeth and start eating away tooth structure since the byproducts of their metabolism release acids. 

Plaque is a sticky substance released by bacteria so the bugs can adhere to the tooth. The bacteria within the plaque feed on sugar in the diet. When exposed to sugar, the bacteria within plague secrete acid as a byproduct which decalcifies the tooth and eventually causes decay. Proper oral hygiene through brushing, flossing, rinsing and routine dental visits will reduce the accumulation of plaque and its cavity causing effects.

Plaque is a sticky film of bacteria that sits on teeth. Just like many of us, they love sugar (esp. sucrose, fructose) and as we eat, the bacteria will eat and metabolize their food by producing acid. This will eat the tooth surfaces away and hence cause tooth decay.

Plaque is a sticky film of bacteria. When you do not remove plaque from your teeth daily, it builds up. Plaque bacteria use sugar to produce acids that attack enamel, the hard surface of the tooth. This acid attacks tooth enamel for up to 20 minutes after you eat or drink. When you have sugary foods or drinks many times a day or sip on the same sugary drink for long periods of time, the acid attacks your tooth enamel again and again. Repeated acid attacks cause tooth decay, which requires treatment by a dentist.
You may not realize it, but your mouth is teeming with bacteria. And  when you eat, they eat, too, gorging themselves on the food debris that's left on your teeth. Bacteria convert sugars and starches from food into acid. When acid combines with leftover food debris and  saliva, it forms a sticky substance called plaque.

Plaque gets stuck to your teeth, and if you don't brush it off, it will stay there, eventually dissolving the enamel that  protects your teeth, and eating away at the teeth themselves, leaving holes called cavities. Plaque also irritates your gums, weakening the connections that hold your teeth in place.

To avoid plaque buildup and tooth decay, limit consumption of sugary food, and get rid of plaque by brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing daily. If a tooth is causing you pain or discomfort, see your dentist. You may need to have a cavity filled.
Jonathan B. Levine, DMD
Plaque is what happens when bacteria colonize on a tooth. If food particles stay on or between teeth, and the bacteria is not removed on a daily basis, a natural Petri dish forms. The sugars feed the plaque and encourages it to grow even more. If the bacteria aren't brushed away but linger, it then produces acids, which eventually begin to dissolve (de-mineralize) the tooth, starting with the enamel. So, the more sugar you eat, the greater the amount of acid is produced in your mouth, and the faster a tooth can dissolve, or de-mineralize, as it's called. The area between the teeth is most vulnerable to this happening, since it's the hardest to clean. If the acid isn't cleaned out from there (in other words, if you don't floss), it forms there and burrows a hole into the tooth. This is decay.
Smile!: The Ultimate Guide to Achieving Smile Beauty

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Smile!: The Ultimate Guide to Achieving Smile Beauty

Renowned dentist and creator of the GoSMILE product line Dr. Levine offers this complete guide to getting a whiter, brighter smile. 15 photos & illustrations.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.