What Is Plaque?

Most of us know that plaque is the main culprit behind almost all dental problems. We recognize it as that sticky, fuzzy substance that builds up on our teeth if we go too long without brushing. We know it causes bad breath and a rather unsightly smile.

At our Rigby dental clinic, we’re no strangers to plaque or the problems it can create.

But what is plaque, really? How does it form? Why is it caustic to our teeth?

How Plaque is Created

Rigby DentalPlaque results from the combination of carbohydrates in food and the bacteria that naturally lives in your mouth. In fact, the bacteria in your mouth feeds on these carbohydrates, after which it produces an acid. 

Over time, if you go too long without brushing, this acid will begin to collect bits of food left over in your mouth, creating a thick, sticky paste.

That’s plaque – nasty, acidic, and full of bacteria. 

Most of the plaque in your mouth can be brushed and flossed away, but it’s important to visit your Rigby dental clinic from time to time for a more thorough cleaning. This is because plaque can build up in areas that are hard to see or reach, and it takes a dentist with specific tools to clear it all out.

The Difference Between Plaque & Tartar

If plaque is left to fester long enough, it will accumulate minerals from your saliva, causing it to harden into a yellow or off-white crust. 

Tartar builds up on the front and back of your teeth along the gumline. It can be removed with thorough brushing and flossing, but as stated above, it can be difficult to get all of it yourself. 

If you’re noticing tartar build up, schedule an appointment at your Rigby dental clinic immediately.

Why Plaque Is Dangerous for Your Health

The reason plaque is a problem is that it’s acidic and full of bacteria. This means erosion and infection of your teeth and gums. 

Problems can range from bad breath and cavities to more serious health issues.

Common Dental Problems Caused by Plaque

Rigby DentalYour teeth are composed of a series of layers and plaque eats away at them one after another.

It begins with the protective outer layer of the tooth and on into the hard, bony section called the dentin. Once a hole is worn away there, you officially have a cavity that will require a filling.

If left to fester, the plaque will begin to infect the tooth pulp. As the name implies, this is the fleshy center of the tooth that contains the tooth nerve.

Pulp infection (pulpitis) means inflammation, damage, and a whole lot of pain! Usually at this stage, a root canal will be required.

Plaque can also cause periodontal (gum) disease. As plaque builds up along the gumline, the body eventually releases a hormone that causes the gums to become inflamed. Over time, gum inflammation can lead to gum recession, tooth displacement, and eventual tooth loss.

If you’re suffering from gum disease, we offer treatment options at our Rigby dental clinic.

More Serious Health Issues

Rigby DentalPlaque can cause more serious health issues than mere dental decay and gum disease, including heart attack and stroke!

More evidence is building that shows a link between dental health and the overall health of the body. Our bodies are interconnected systems, and problems in one area can have profound effects on another, seemingly unrelated area. 

Consider that plaque has direct access from the mouth to the bloodstream, especially in advanced stages of dental decay and gum disease where bleeding and infection is more likely. Plaque is also acidic (which can cause inflammation) and filled with bacteria (which can cause infection).

Inflammation and bacterial infections are also common factors in health problems like heart attack and stroke.

As plaque enters the bloodstream, it can make its way into the arteries in the heart and blood vessels in the brain. Not only is inflammation a factor in heart disease and stroke, but the most common bacteria found in plaque, Streptococcus mutans, is positively correlated with brain hemorrhage and cerebral microbleeds.


Plaque is a serious health concern. Not only can it cause dental problems ranging from inconvenient nuisances to incredibly painful maladies, it can also lead to serious health problems like heart attack and stroke.

No matter what stage of dental decay you are experiencing, our Rigby dental clinic can help.

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