Why Does Plaque Build Up On Teeth?

We all know the importance of brushing our teeth and visiting the dentist regularly to maintain good oral hygiene. They both remove plaque from your teeth, but where does plaque come from?

Plaque builds up on your teeth when the acid created by bacteria in your mouth combines with food particles, creating this hard, sticky substance. If not removed with brushing and flossing, plaque will harden into tartar, requiring a professional cleaning to remove.

What Is Plaque?

Plaque is a mix of bacteria, food particles, and saliva. It’s colourless but can become yellow or brown if not removed by brushing and flossing. When left for a while, plaque bacteria can attack your tooth enamel or reach into your gums, causing tooth decay and gum inflammation.

Plaque will also harden into tartar. Tartar is much tougher, but a dentist or hygienist has the tools to remove it and prevent potential complications like gingivitis or cavities.

Explaining Gingivitis

Gingivitis is an early form of gum disease and one of the main reasons you should keep on top of your dental health. As plaque builds up, it can trigger an immune response in your gums.

While early gingivitis may have little or no symptoms, the most common sign is typically bleeding gums, especially when brushing or flossing. Other indications of gingivitis include:

  • Gum inflammation
  • Discoloured gums
  • Tender gums
  • Bad breath
  • Receding gums
  • Soft gums

What Causes Plaque?

Your mouth is home to numerous bacteria and microorganisms that enter your body through what you eat, drink, and breathe. Some of these bacteria are helpful, but others can damage your enamel. In fact, tooth decay can occur in places out of sight, like beneath your gum line. This decay can weaken the very foundations of your teeth and eventually cause them to fall out.

When you indulge in carbohydrate-rich or sugary foods and drinks, you’re not just treating yourself but also the bacteria in your mouth. They feast on these sugars and produce acids as a byproduct. These acids attack your enamel and can reach the pulp inside. Some people describe plaque as a “fuzzy” layer over their teeth, but you can also see it as a yellowish film.

Maintaining your oral hygiene goes beyond preserving a beautiful smile; it’s about safeguarding the health of your entire mouth!


Treating & Preventing Plaque

Plaque buildup is an unpleasant reality of living and eating. But it can be cleaned away before it becomes a problem.

The funny thing about plaque is that it will build up on your teeth throughout the day; you just have to keep up with it. Here are some ways you can help keep your teeth plaque-free (for at least most of the day):

Brushing & Flossing

The first line of defence against plaque buildup is, of course, daily brushing and flossing. Proper oral hygiene involves brushing at least twice a day and flossing once a day to remove food caught between teeth and beneath the gum line. Using fluoride toothpaste can also help strengthen tooth enamel and make it more resistant to decay.


Antibacterial and fluoride mouthwashes contain ingredients that help kill bacteria, freshen your breath, and strengthen your enamel, which can be especially beneficial for those prone to dental issues.

Professional Cleanings

Even with an excellent at-home oral hygiene routine, plaque will still accumulate on teeth and harden into tartar. That’s why it’s essential to visit your dentist for regular cleanings. During these appointments, a dental professional uses special tools to remove plaque and tartar buildup that can be difficult to reach with a toothbrush. The Canadian Dental Association recommends cleanings every 6 months to help maintain optimal oral health.

Dental Procedures

In more severe cases of plaque buildup, more advanced dental procedures may be necessary, including root planing and removing plaque and bio film below the gumline.. While these treatments may seem daunting, they can prevent more serious dental issues down the line.

Lifestyle Changes

Beyond dental treatments, making certain lifestyle changes can also help prevent plaque buildup. Limiting the amount of sugary and acidic foods and drinks in your diet can help to prevent enamel erosion, and quitting smoking can significantly reduce the risk of gum disease, as smoking can impair blood flow to the gums and lead to plaque buildup.

Keeping Your Smile Bright in St. Albert

Plaque may seem harmless, but it’s one of the biggest threats to your oral health. Regular brushing and flossing, a healthy diet, and regular dental checkups can keep plaque at bay and help maintain a healthy smile.

Green Grove Dental can help you clean off that icky plaque and scrape away harmful tartar before it damages your smile. We’re here for you, so book your next cleaning today!