Dental Hygiene Glossary - Plaque

Dental Hygiene Glossary - Plaque

What Is Plaque?

Plaque, a sticky, colorless film of bacteria and sugars, continuously forms on our teeth. It's the main culprit behind several oral health issues, from cavities down to gum disease. But how exactly does it form, and why is it a concern for our dental hygiene?

Through activities such as eating and drinking, we introduce sugars and starches that interact with bacteria naturally present in our mouths – this interaction produces plaque. If you've ever felt your teeth feel "fuzzy" when you haven't brushed in a while, that's plaque making itself known.

One reason plaque is a concern is its role in tooth decay and gum disease. When plaque accumulates and isn't removed by proper brushing and flossing, it can harden into tartar—a much tougher substance to remove, often requiring professional help. 

There are many ways to reduce plaque, such as visiting a dental professional, flossing, and brushing with Plus Ultra’s natural gel toothpaste with aloe vera, which is aimed at removing plaque and stains with proper brushing techniques.

Plaque vs. Tartar: Identifying The Differences


Plaque is the starting point in this duo's journey. It's a soft, sticky film that forms on your teeth and along the gum line. Composed mainly of bacteria, it feeds on the sugars in our diet, producing acids that can harm tooth enamel and lead to cavities. Because it's soft and pliable, plaque can be removed through regular brushing and flossing.


On the other hand, tartar, sometimes known as calculus, forms when plaque is left unchecked. As plaque accumulates and isn't regularly cleared away, it can harden into tartar in as little as 24 to 72 hours. 

This transformation makes it much more challenging to remove and provides a rough surface that more plaque can stick to, setting off a cycle that can be tough to break. Unlike plaque, tartar is too stubborn to be removed with a regular toothbrush and floss alone; it usually requires a professional dental hygienist's cleaning.

Negative Consequences Of Plaque Accumulation

Understanding the implications of plaque accumulation is crucial in appreciating the importance of a diligent oral hygiene routine. While plaque might initially seem harmless, its continuous buildup can have several negative consequences, impacting oral health and overall well-being.

Cavities And Tooth Decay

The bacteria in plaque produce acids that eat away at tooth enamel, creating holes or cavities. Left unchecked, this process can lead to more severe tooth decay, potentially resulting in tooth loss or the need for significant dental work.

Gum Disease

Gum disease is a direct consequence of plaque buildup along the gum line. As plaque hardens into tartar, it irritates and inflames the gums, causing them to become red, swollen, and prone to bleeding. This condition can ultimately destroy the tissues and bone supporting the teeth if not addressed.

Bad Breath

Plaque accumulation is a common cause of halitosis or bad breath. The bacteria in plaque produce foul-smelling compounds, leading to persistent bad breath that mouthwashes or mints can't easily mask.

Systemic Health Issues

Scientific studies have shown links between oral health issues like gum disease and other health problems, including heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. 

Natural Remedies vs. Professional Treatments For Plaque Reduction

At-Home Remedies For Plaque Control

  • Flossing: Regular flossing removes food particles and plaque between the teeth and under the gumline, areas a toothbrush can't always reach.
  • Proper Brushing Technique: Brushing your teeth twice a day with effective toothpaste, using a soft-bristled brush, and using the proper technique is crucial for removing plaque and preventing buildup.
  • Aloe Vera: Both known for their antimicrobial properties, rinses or gels containing aloe vera can help combat plaque bacteria naturally, such as Plus Ultra’s Natural Gel Toothpaste.

Plus Ultra Natural Gel Toothpaste

Professional Treatments For Plaque Reduction

For those facing more advanced plaque buildup or tartar, professional dental treatments become necessary. These can include:

  • Regular Cleanings: Having your teeth professionally cleaned by a hygienist every 6 months is crucial for removing plaque and tartar that home care cannot address.
  • Dental Sealants: Applied to the chewing surfaces of molars, sealants provide a protective barrier against plaque and food particles.

Daily Habits To Prevent Plaque Buildup

  • Brush Twice a Day: Brush your teeth in the morning and before bed using a soft-bristled toothbrush. For an eco-friendly option, consider bamboo and natural toothpaste from Plus Ultra, which ensures gentle yet effective cleaning.
  • Floss Daily: Flossing removes food particles and plaque your toothbrush can't reach, especially between the teeth. 
  • Stay Hydrated: Drinking water helps wash away food particles and bacteria. It can also stimulate saliva production, which is nature's way of neutralizing acids and helping to protect your teeth from decay.
  • Use Mouthwash: A natural, alcohol-free mouthwash can help kill bacteria and freshen your breath without the harsh effects of traditional mouthwashes. 
  • Regular Dental Checkups: Even with impeccable oral hygiene habits, visiting your dentist regularly for check-ups and cleanings is crucial. Your dentist can remove tartar that can't be removed at home and spot any potential issues early.

Prioritizing these habits can significantly prevent plaque buildup, leading to a healthier, more radiant smile reflecting your commitment to natural and sustainable oral care. Plus Ultra makes oral care guilt-free with eco-friendly products like our Bamboo Toothbrush, a sustainable toothbrush that is durable and inherent with anti-bacterial qualities that protect from germs and mold.

Bamboo Toothbrushes

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is dental plaque?

Dental plaque is a sticky, colorless, pale yellow film that constantly forms on your teeth. It's a collection of bacteria, proteins, and sugars that cling to your tooth surfaces, including the points where teeth and gums meet.

How does plaque form on teeth?

Plaque forms when the sugars and starches in your food interact with bacteria in your mouth.

What are the main components of dental plaque?

The main components of dental plaque include bacteria, microbial cells (both living and dead), and the biochemical matrix they produce. 

How can plaque affect oral health?

If not regularly removed, plaque can lead to tooth decay and gum disease. It produces acids that erode tooth enamel and irritate the gum tissue, potentially leading to cavities, gingivitis, and periodontitis.

How does sugar intake affect plaque formation?

Bacteria in the mouth use sugar to produce acids. These acids can weaken tooth enamel and promote more plaque growth, increasing the risk of cavities and gum disease.

What is the difference between plaque and tartar?

Plaque is a soft, sticky film that can be removed with proper brushing and flossing. Tartar, on the other hand, is hardened plaque that has been left on the teeth and can only be removed by a dental professional.

Is it possible to completely remove plaque?

While removing 100% of plaque is challenging, regular and thorough brushing, flossing, and professional dental cleanings can effectively minimize plaque build-up.

What are the best dental hygiene practices to prevent plaque build-up?

Brush your teeth at least twice a day, floss daily, use mouthwash, and maintain a diet low in sugar. Visiting your dentist regularly for cleanings and check-ups is also essential.

How often should I brush to prevent plaque?

Brush your teeth for two minutes at least twice daily, in the morning and before bed. This helps remove plaque and prevent it from hardening into tartar.

Are electric toothbrushes more effective at removing plaque?

Studies have shown that electric toothbrushes can be more effective at removing plaque and reducing gingivitis, as they provide consistent brushing motion and pressure.