Plaque is a hard layer of material that can build up on the outside of the tooth’s enamel, in a similar way to how calcium can build up on the outside of a bone like scar tissue or the way rust grows on oxidized metal. Once the plaque starts to form it gets thicker, starting off initially like a rather thin film that stains the tooth and growing steadily until it forms a tough outer layer.
But the problem that the presence of plaque presents usually happens beyond the view of the naked eye, down underneath that thick layer of plaque. There bacteria finds a home and begins to grow, and this can lead to a terrible dental infection that may attack both the teeth and the gums. As the colony of microbial bacteria looks for sustenance it often creates problems inside the gums where the tender tissues and tiny blood vessels are infected. Soon the gums begin to swell, hurt, and bleed, and if the infection does not get treated and stopped it can bore down into other parts of the jaw. The tooth can likewise develop a cavity that can open up into the inner pulpy part of the interior tooth. There it will quickly spread through the root canal, and sometimes root canal infections that are left untreated cause severe illness or even consequences that lead to death.
That’s why it is important that the dentist remove any unwanted plaque from your teeth, and this is especially true if the plaque is attached to a part of the tooth that is beneath the gum line. There it is hard to see, you can’t get to it with a toothbrush, and so it will continue to grow because it is both unseen and impossible to reach without special instruments and procedures. At that point the dentist can intervene, however, and either probe with tools or – if necessary – do surgery to peel the gum away from the base of the plaque troubled tooth. Once the area is exposed he or she can scrape away all the plaque, treat any lingering infection, and then make sure that the gum is again put back where it can protect the part of the tooth that it covers.
Should you suspect that your gums are swollen or infected, make an appointment to have your gums and teeth checked by the dentist. It could be that plaque is built up beneath the gums and then remedial measures can be taken to proactively address the plaque problem and remove it before it gets worse. Of course the best way to deal with this kind of potential trouble is to make regularly scheduled visits to the dentist at least twice each year. The dentist or a dental hygienist will inspect for plaque, scrape or polish it away from your tooth surface, and leave you with a fresher feeling and much more attractive looking overall smile.
In addition to these routine dental appointments you can take steps yourself at home to prevent plaque. Eat a balanced diet; avoid smoking, brush after each meal, and floss regularly to minimize plaque while maximizing your overall health.