Healthy You

Plaque and Health: Part 1 - What is Plaque?

What is Plaque? Plaque is a harmful coating that is constantly being produced in the mouth, an ideal environment for the growth of bacteria.  (Saliva helps maintain the pH range and also provides nutrients to feed bacteria.) According to Dr. Phillip B. Marsh in BMC Oral Health, plaque is a community of microorganisms known as a microbial biofilm, found on tooth surfaces. Because of its diverse composition and interaction of microbes, it is particularly resistant to antibacterial agents and therefore difficult to remove.  Although plaque cannot easily be seen, you can feel its sticky presence by running your tongue along your teeth. If not dealt with properly, then it can cause serious oral health issues. How Does It Form? Your diet greatly influences the bacteria in your mouth. According to Dr. Burhenne of Ask the Dentist, "the acid excreted by bacteria after they consume sugars is their waste product and the stuff that leads to bad breath, tooth decay, destruction of enamel, and cavities." Many of us know these and other critical oral health consequences of plaque buildup. If we want to address this buildup, the easiest way is to remove plaque daily, when it is still soft.  Otherwise, it quickly begins to harden, as it absorbs calcium and other minerals from saliva and food! This process of calcification - or calculus, which can also lead to bleeding gums and gingivitis, generally starts after as little as 48 hours. Plaque and immunity We know that if plaque builds up in the mouth, there can be harmful effects not only in your mouth but also on the rest of the body. For some time, researchers have linked gum disease to health problems such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and premature births. Now a recent clinical study noted that periodontal disease - the loss of the normal supporting tissues of the teeth - is an immune response to certain bacteria in dental plaque. As a chronic inflammatory disease, periodontitis involves the body's immune system and this study can help us understand why some people are more susceptible to plaque buildup than others. Health professionals agree that oral health is important for overall health, which is why it pays not to skip regular dental cleanings nor to be lazy with your daily oral health routine. Stay tuned for Plaque and Health : Part 2 - How to Remove Plaque. We'll discuss ways to remove plaque from the mouth in order to avoid harmful conditions that could develop.

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