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dental plaque

What Is Dental Plaque? Causes, Removal, & Prevention

Did you forget to brush your teeth last night, and have woken up to halitosis and furry teeth? Don’t panic! The natural bacteria in your mouth have combined with the sugar and starch from your dinner and formed dental plaque.

Everybody has dental plaque, but it does not need to result in dental problems. Good dental hygiene and a healthy diet play a vital part in preventing natural dental plaque from progressing to tartar and creating havoc in your mouth.

What Is Dental Plaque And What Causes It?

We all have natural bacteria in our mouths. The bacteria releases acids that are necessary to break down carbohydrates. If we don’t brush our teeth after meals, and especially at night, the bacteria, acids, and carbohydrates form a sticky, colorless film on our teeth known as plaque.

Plaque is easy to control if you practice good oral hygiene but left untreated, plaque becomes hard-to-remove tartar.

The Difference Between Plaque And Tartar

There are some major differences between plaque and tartar. Some ways you can determine if you have dental plaque or if it has progressed to tartar are:


  • Is colorless and difficult to see with the naked eye.
  • Forms on the hard-to-reach areas like the molars, or in the ridges and grooves of the other teeth.
  • If caught early, it can be removed with good oral hygiene at home.


  • Is off-white or yellow.
  • Forms on the gum line and/or front and back of teeth.
  • It cannot be removed with home dental hygiene; it will need to be removed by a dentist.

Signs You May Have Dental Plaque

The plaque may be colorless and invisible to the naked eye, but the following symptoms would indicate that it is present:

  • Your teeth feel “fuzzy” when you wipe your tongue over them.
  • You have chronic halitosis (bad breath)
  • Your gums are tender, red, and/or swollen, and bleed when you brush your teeth.
  • You develop tooth cavities.

Who Is Most Likely To Develop Dental Plaque?

We all develop dental plaque, but some people are more predisposed to it. People most likely to develop dental plaque are:

  • People who eat and drink a lot of sugar or starchy foods.
  • Smokers
  • People who are on medication that causes a dry mouth. Some of these medications include:
    • Various antidepressants.
    • People who are being treated for Sjogren’s Syndrome
  • People who have received head or neck radiation treatment.

How To Prevent Dental Plaque From Forming

To prevent the formation of dental plaque, you will need to prioritize a healthy lifestyle and practice good oral hygiene. Some ways to do this include:

  • Brush your teeth after meals and before going to bed. If possible, use an electric toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste. Where it’s not possible to brush after meals, chew American Dental Association (ADA) approved sugarless gum.
  • Floss at least once a day.
  • Use an over-the-counter antiseptic mouthwash at least once a day.
  • Choose to eat healthy foods like plain yogurt, cheese, raw vegetables, and fruit, as opposed to foods that are high in sugar and carbohydrates.
  • Schedule a professional dental cleaning with your dentist/oral hygienist at least twice a year.

How To Treat Dental Plaque And Tartar

If you suspect you have dental plaque, you must make a conscious effort to get rid of it. Depending on what stage the plaque has advanced to, you can:

  • Brush and floss your teeth after meals and before going to bed.
  • Go for a dental examination. The dentist will be able to view the hard-to-reach areas with a small mirror, and using dental instruments, scrape the affected areas until the plaque or tartar is removed.
  • The dentist may prescribe:
    • Dental sealants. These will prevent the formation of plaque on the tooth’s chewing surface.
    • Fluoride treatment to slow the growth of plaque-forming bacteria.
    • Dry mouth treatment that will increase the production of saliva.
    • A prescription toothpaste and/mouthwash.

Eriks Dental Group, The Dentists Of Choice In Boynton Beach

If you are looking for a caring, capable and comprehensive dental services, look no further. Eriks Dental Group strives for excellence and is known in Boynton Beach for always offering a five-star dental experience. To have all your dental needs met in one place, contact us at 563-733-4004 or book an appointment via [email protected].