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What is dental plaque?

Dental plaque is a film of bacteria that forms on your teeth between brushings. Certain bacteria within dental plaque, such as Streptococcus mutans, feed on the sugar from your diet and  release acids that dissolve your tooth's outer layers. Diabetics avoid foods and drinks that are high in sugars but still tend to have more dental complications than people without diabetes.

It is very important to remove plaque regularly after meals by brushing with a fluoride toothpaste and flossing daily. If you regularly leave plaque behind the bacteria can digest sugars and release acids which remove mineral from   the tooth enamel and eventually form holes (cavities) in your teeth. Routine visits to your dentist are important, because only a dentist can detect cavities and repair them. A dentist can also detect early lesions before a cavity forms and can help you to improve your oral hygiene and advise on the use of fluoride toothpaste and mouthrinse and other fluoride products to help reverse the early damage and prevent it from progressing to a cavity.

Plaque builds up and hardens over time to form tartar. Tartar can cause problems in places that are hard to see and reach, like under your gumline. Here it can cause inflammation (gum disease) which if left untreated may lead to periodontitis, a more serious form of periodontal disease and eventually even tooth loss.
Dentists and hygienists can remove tartar.
Your teeth are covered with a sticky film called plaque that can contribute to tooth decay and gum disease. Plaque contains bacteria, which following a meal or snack can release acids that attack tooth enamel. Repeated attacks can cause the enamel to break down, eventually resulting in cavities. Plaque that is not removed with thorough daily brushing and cleaning between teeth can eventually harden into calculus or tartar. This makes it more difficult  to keep your teeth clean. When tartar collects above the gum line, the gum tissue can become swollen and may bleed. This is called gingivitis, the early stage of gum disease. You can prevent plaque buildup by regularly visiting the dentist, brushing twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste and cleaning between your teeth with dental floss daily.

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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.