Plaque is a sticky film of germs (bacteria) that grows on teeth and gums. These bacteria react with sugars and starches in food and drink to make acids and other substances. These substances can cause various problems which lead to damage to teeth, gums, and bone. The damage they cause includes tooth decay, bad breath, and gum recession.

You might be surprised to learn that dental plaque is in fact a very smart, complex colony of different types of bacteria that live together and assist each other. The nastier bacteria live on the inside of the mix and provide nutrients, while the hardier bacteria live on the outside of the colony and provide protection from saliva as well as providing adherence to the tooth surface.

To date, at least 500 different species of micro organisms have been identified within dental plaque. The surface of the teeth is the only bacterial-covered  surface within the mouth that does not regularly shed the bacteria and thus, if not thoroughly removed on a regular basis, they are able to mature, and get cosy.

Without regular brushing layers of plaque will build up on the teeth and will eventually result in tartar, which cannot be removed by normal brushing. These are the initial stages of gum disease.

The main cause of tooth loss among adults in the UK is gum disease. This condition is extremely common, with one in four adults over the age of 35 suffering from it to some degree. Tooth loss is your body’s natural way of stopping the dental plaque from getting into the blood stream and causing serious illness. The body slowly pushes out the tooth that is covered in damaging bacteria by resorbing the bone around it, with the end result of the tooth dropping out.

Will a mouthwash do?

Careful brushing and cleaning in between your teeth is VERY important to prevent gum disease and tooth decay. The mechanical force of brushing and flossing dislodges and removes the film of plaque that is harmful to our teeth and gums. Mouthwashes do not thoroughly remove plaque and should not be seen as an easy way out. Mouthwashes are useful for freshening breath, or to deliver fluoride to the tooth surface, but when it comes to cleaning, they only remove a few layers of bacteria from the surface of the built-up plaque.

Top Tip: Be sure to brush the inside surfaces (on the tongue side) of your teeth including the gum line. This is an area that’s easy to miss! Plaque tends to build up along the gum line first so this is where you need to angle your toothbrush.

Why visit the hygienist?

Gum care is vital in order to keep your teeth for life, keep your breath fresh, and maintain a healthy youthful smile. Neglecting your gums can cause many problems including tooth decay, sensitivity, pain, and eventually, tooth loss.

The hygienist plays a key role in looking after your teeth:

  • Remove tartar that cannot be removed with a toothbrush.
  • Ensure that your gums are healthy and pink, not inflamed and red.
  • Give you important advice to help you carry out an effective dental care routine at home.
  • Stop gums bleeding when brushing.
  • Prevent teeth from becoming loose and drifting.