What is dental plaque?

Home >> Dental Diseases >> What is dental plaque?
asian-woman-red-shirt-holding-brown-paper-with-dental-plaque-cartoon-picture-his-mouth-against-gray-wall-bad-breath-halitosis-concept-with-healthcare-gums-teeth (1)

Written by Dr. Aayushi Mehta

Medically reviewed by  Dr. Vidhi Bhanushali Kabade BDS, TCC

Dental plaque is a film made up of microbes and organic and inorganic substances produced from saliva, gingival crevicular fluid, and bacterial by-products. It is a dense, nonmineralized, highly organized biofilm. At first, it is a sticky, colourless deposit, but when tartar occurs, it is frequently brown or pale yellow. It is most commonly found between teeth, on the front surfaces of teeth, behind teeth, along the gumline, or beneath the gumline cervical borders. Plaque can be one of the causes of tooth decay and gum disease.

How does dental plaque form, and what are the causes of that?

Plaque is formed by the colonization of bacteria on the surface of the tooth. When carbohydrates (sugars and starches) from meals like milk, soda, raisins, cakes, and candies are repeatedly left on the teeth, plaque forms. These meals are ideal for the bacteria that inhabit the mouth, which leads to the production of acids. These acids gradually erode tooth enamel, which causes tooth decay. Moreover, plaque can form on the tooth roots beneath the gum line, weakening the bone that supports the tooth.

The following are the causes of dental plaque:

  • Poor oral hygiene care.
  • Incorrect method of toothbrushing and flossing.
  • Dry mouth.

Who is more likely to develop dental plaque?

Dental plaque is a common thing, and it forms in everyone’s mouth. However, it is more common in people who:

  • Person who doesn’t maintain a proper oral hygiene routine.
  • People who consume a lot of sugary food or drinks.
  • People having a habit of smoking or chewing tobacco.
  • Patients undergo radiation.
  • Dry mouth is mostly due to anti-depressant medication or conditions like diabetes or Sjogren’s syndrome.
  • Immunocompromised patients.

What are the symptoms of dental plaque?

Following are a few symptoms one can notice:

  • Squishy layer on the teeth.
  • Bad breath (halitosis).
  • After you brush your teeth, your gums become red, swollen, tender, and bleeding.

How do you diagnose dental plaque?

Dental plaque can be diagnosed in two ways: The first is a visual or tactile examination, and the second is with the use of disclosing gels or tablets.

In the visual examination, the dental plaque is seen as deposits on the tooth surface. The tactile method is done with the help of a dental instrument and is scraped over the tooth surface. It is mostly found on the surfaces of the teeth, in between the teeth, or around the orthodontic appliances or crowns.

Dental plaque can also be diagnosed with the help of disclosing gels or tablets. In this, after applying gel or chewing a tablet for a minute, the plaque is highlighted with color to show the areas where plaque is present.

How do you treat dental plaque?

Oral hygiene measures, including brushing and flossing, will remove the plaque and prevent the formation of tartar.

Dental sealants are used on the surface of the tooth to prevent plaque build-up.

advising fluoride applications for slowing the growth of bacteria and preventing tooth decay.

If the cause is dry mouth, medications to increase saliva production may be prescribed.

Prescribe toothpaste and antibacterial mouthwash.

What will happen if you don’t manage the removal of the plaque?

By not removing the plaque properly, it will lead to a hard substance called tartar or calculus. Later, calculus is not removed with the help of normal toothbrushing and flossing, and it needs a professional dental cleaning. This plaque turned into calculus leads to the following tooth problems:

  • Tooth caries.
  • Tooth cavities.
  • Inflammation of the gums.
  • Gum diseases such as gingivitis or periodontitis.
  • Infection in the teeth.
  • Tooth loss.

How do you prevent dental plaque at home?

Maintaining good oral hygiene is the most effective way to prevent dental plaque. Following are the steps you can take at home to prevent the formation of plaque.

  1. Rinsing

    Rinse with the help of mouthwash after brushing and eating meals.

  2. Floss

    Floss once a day with the help of dental floss or a water flosser.

  3. Chew sugar-free gum

    That is recommended by the ADA.

  4. Maintain a healthy diet

    Nutritious diet by avoiding sugary foods and drinks.

  5. Visit your dentist every six months

    For a routine check-up.


What is in a plaque?

Plaque is a biofilm made up of microbes and organic and inorganic substances that are released from saliva, gingival crevicular fluid, and bacterial by-products.

Plaque is removed from teeth in what way?

The best way to remove plaque is to maintain good oral hygiene, which includes brushing and flossing your teeth. But if left uncleaned, it forms calculus, which is removed with the help of professional scaling.

How is hardened dental plaque dissolved?

Hardened dental plaque can be softened with the help of certain mouthwashes, but it doesn’t completely soften it. They need to be removed with the help of scalers.

Can dental plaque be scraped off of teeth?

Dental plaque is a soft, sticky film on the surface of teeth that can be easily removed with proper oral care and does not require any other treatment to remove it.

Is dental plaque bad for your health?

No, dental plaque is not bad for your health.

Was this article helpful?