Plaque is a colourless film of bacteria, salivary protein and food debris that form on teeth everyday. It is the main cause of cavities and gum disease. While plaque is in the soft state you can clean it with a tooth brush and floss. However, once plaque becomes calculus or tartar it can only be removed professionally by a dental surgeon.
Plaque is composed of several species of bacteria. Bacteria most commonly found in plaque are streptococcus mutans and streptococcus sangius. There are 170 different types of bacteria in the mouth.
The irritants in plaque also cause inflammation of the gums, making them tender and prone to bleeding. Bleeding gums are usually the first sign that there may be a problem. They may also appear puffy, tender or red, indications that infection is present. Regular visits to the dental surgeon is the best way to check gum disease before it causes damage.
Plaque leads to deep periodontal pockets and bone loss.
Plaque causes caries when the acid produced by the bacteria demineralise areas of the teeth. With repeated acid attacks tooth enamel can actually break down and a cavity may form.
Plaque formation initiates gum inflammation, a condition known as gingivitis. In this condition, the gums bleed on brushing or provocation.
If left unattended, the infection spreads to deeper tissues and surrounding bone, causing periodontitis. A space, called a pocket, is formed between the tooth and gums.
In this space, more bacteria and food debris collect and cause bone resorption, leading to weakening of the tooth structure.
Finally, pus fills these pockets as bacterial infection builds up in these spaces, causing severe bad breath and loose teeth.
Severe periodontal disease may also hamper the gastrointestinal system. Cardiac disease has also been now linked to gum disease, although investigation and research is underway.
Gum diseases are curable if detected early.
Early gingivitis is completely reversible. Proper brushing and thorough cleaning by a dentist is sufficient to tackle this problem.
To treat periodontitis, tartar and calculus below the gum line are first removed by scaling. The roots may have to be smoothened by root planing, so that the gums heal better.
If the infection has spread to deeper supporting tissues, surgery may be required to eliminate pockets and replace the missing or resorbed bone.
Satisfactory healing of gums occurs if the patient follows meticulous home care and the instructions given by the dentist.
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