Plaque and Gingivitis

What is plaque?

Plaque is the simple term used to describe the complex biofilm made up of bacteria in the human mouth. It is the white fury and sticky substance that clings to the inner surfaces of the mouth, the teeth, and the gums. 

The human mouth is home to colonies of bacteria, some harmless, some helpful, and some problematic. When bacteria in the mouth join together, they start acting more like a single unit made up of many cells than a set of individual units. This is called a biofilm, which allows bacteria to survive removal efforts better than bacteria not in a biofilm. 

Plaques that are allowed to grow unchecked and/or are made up of mostly unhealthy bacteria lead to gum infections. Toothbrushing and flossing can remove some of this plaque, but certain environmental, iatrogenic and familial/genetic risk factors can sometimes make it harder to manage. Further, when dental plaque is allowed to overgrow, it develops calcium structures and becomes tartar. Tartar, unlike plaque, requires professional help by a dentist or hygienist to remove. Most people will develop some tartar build up within 6 months, regardless of their home care routine.

What is Gingivitis?

Gingivitis is a gum infection that causes inflammation of the gums. When bacteria containing plaque collects around the necks of your teeth, the adjacent gum reacts with increased blood flow to ward off the invading bacteria, hence the start of the body’s defense mechanism called inflammation (puffy swollen gums that bleed on touching).

If the plaque is not properly removed via daily tooth-brushing and flossing, an infection develops in the gum that leads to puffy, swollen areas that may bleed on brushing or flossing.

Gingivitis signs & symptoms

Gingivitis is a SILENT INFECTION, but some signs can include:

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