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The "Dirt" On Your Teeth

Dr Orafidiya

15th Mar, 2016

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"Doctor, there is this dirt at the bottom of my teeth that has been there for a while now. Normally, when I brush hard, it disappears, but now it doesn’t go again.

My gums swell up and i even bleed sometimes when I brush.

I thought my toothbrush was too hard initially, but I changed to a very soft one. In fact, I tried using a foam to brush, but I still bled at times."

That “dirt” that appears to be stuck on your tooth didn’t appear there overnight. It is called a dental plaque and it builds up overtime if left undisturbed.

A plaque is a layer/mass of soft deposits (usually containing variable amount of bacteria) formed and attached on the surface of the tooth.

It is also called microbial plaque, oral biofilm, dental biofilm, bacterial plaque biofilm.

Am confused Doctor, please i am sure it is a dirt, what does this your plaque look like?

It appears as a soft, well-attached, relatively easy to remove, white - pale yellow slime layer, commonly found in between teeth and along the neck of teeth ( and prostheses)

So what exactly is in this plaque?

It is made up of proteins, lipids, polysaccharides and microorganisms (Streptococcus mutans, fusobacterium, actinobacteria).

Ok, what causes it?

Plaque usually develops when food containing starch and sugar (carbohydrates), such as cakes, milk, candy, soft drinks are frequently left on the teeth. The normal bacteria flora in the mouth thrive on these left over food, producing acids as a result. If undisturbed over a period of time, these acids destroy tooth enamel (The hardest substance in the human body that is found on the shell of each of your teeth that is visible when you look into your mouth).

The formation of plaque is a normal process that cannot be prevented. Its progression and build up is what leads to oral problems, hence it is important to disrupt the mass of bacteria and remove it daily1.

 Well, can it lead to more problems?

Apart from the obvious “dirt” that seems to appear on the teeth, it could also lead to the following.

  • Holes/caries: The acids released by the bacteria in the plaque can destroy/dig into the tooth. This hole can accommodate little parts of food and the bacteria in the mouth acts on it by decomposing it. This is one of the causes of bad breath (halithosis). Also, overtime, this hole becomes infected and leads to severe pain.

But Doctor, I brush once a day (when I remember). I was told to floss but I think it’s for people that like feeling sophisticated. I just use a toothpick and am good.

I would tell you more problems it can lead to and how you can prevent it when you come for your next clinic.

Stay connected for more effects of dental plaque and its management.

Do you bleed when you brush? Does you gum swell up often? Well, stop guessing what it could be, it might not just be a "dirt". Have a private chat with our Doctors today.

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