Plaque is a sticky, colorless community of bacteria and sugars that can form on all surfaces of the teeth. It is the major contributing agent to the progression of dental cavities, gum disease, and periodontal disease. Plaque is composed of more than 400 species of bacteria that adhere persistently within the oral cavity. Since bacteria grow continuously in our mouths, anyone can develop plaque.
Once plaque hardens, it becomes a mineralized yellow-to-brown substance called tarter or calculus. This forms on the teeth, as well as under the gumline, and can irritate your gums. Because calculus has a much stickier surface, even more plaque and bacteria can attach to it.
The bacteria release toxins that destroy the supporting tissues around your teeth. Your gums, along with the supporting tissues, can start to pull away from the teeth and form “pockets.”
As these pockets deepen in response to the plaque irritation, inflammation persists and extends further into the connective tissue until it reaches and destroys the bone.
Eventually, tooth loss can occur. Once the pockets deepen, despite diligent oral hygiene, people can still develop some form of periodontal disease. After the disease has started, professional intervention becomes necessary.