You might have your dentist say how important it is for you to brush, floss, and rinse your mouth to prevent plaque and tartar build-up. But have you thought about why? What are plaque and tartar? How does it form in your teeth? And what can happen if it does? Get your facts right about the plaque on teeth and understand what harm it can do to your teeth.

Plaque is a sticky film that develops on your teeth’ surface every morning. Do you know that the slippery coating you feel when you first wake up is plaque?


Scientists call this plaque a biofilm because it is a community of living microbes. The sticky coating helps the microbes attach to the surface so they can grow into thriving microcolonies.

What is Plaque on Teeth?

Dental plaque is a dull yellow, colorless, or sticky film constantly forming on your teeth. When the food, saliva, and drinks combine, the plaque begins to build up. Plaque contains bacteria that develops the gum line and between your teeth.


These bacteria feed on sugars and carbs, producing acids as they metabolize the sugars. The acids can then erode and damage your enamel and also the roots of your teeth. The result is tooth decay and gum disease.

Plaque on teeth starts to form 4 to 12 hours after brushing. This is why it becomes more important to brush your teeth thoroughly at least twice a day and floss daily.

If you do not remove the plaque regularly, it can accumulate minerals from your saliva and the food. These accumulated minerals harden to form a yellow or off-white substance called tartar.

Tartar also begins to build up underneath your gum line, especially on your teeth’ front and back surfaces. Many times with attentive flossing, you might dislodge some plaque and tartar build-up. But your dentist can only get rid of it completely.


The good news is that if you thoroughly brush, floss, rinse with a mouthwash, and visit your dentist regularly – you should be able to control plaque growth. Consequently, you can also maintain your dental health.

How Can Plaque on Teeth Affect Your Oral Health?

Do you know that plaque is the root cause of many of your oral health issues? The bacteria and microbes in plaque produce acids that not only attack the enamel, causing tooth cavities and decay, but it also affects your gums.

The plaque contains bacteria that is responsible for causing the early stages of gum disease called gingivitis. Plaque might also contribute to bad breath and can make your teeth look dingy and yellow.

If you do not regularly remove the layer of plaque on your teeth, it will mineralize into tartar. Tartar is a yellow, hard, or brown deposit on your teeth that tightly adheres to the surface. 

If plaque is untreated, it can lead to more severe gum disease like periodontal disease. Fighting plaque is the most critical factor and must be addressed immediately, not only to protect and preserve your teeth but also your gums for a lifetime.


Who may be more likely to get plaque on teeth? Every one of you can be affected. You might develop more plaque than usual if you are in the habit of regularly consuming a lot of starchy or sugary food or beverages resulting in bad teeth

You might develop plaque if you have a dry mouth caused due to medications or have a history of head or neck radiation. In addition, smoking can also alter the plaque formation process.  

If you are concerned and want to prevent plaque build-up, you should follow a balanced diet plan and limit in between snacking. Choose nutritious, healthy, and fresh food like plain yogurt, cheese, fruit, or even raw vegetables if you need a snack.

Do you know that commonly found vegetables like celery can help remove food particles from your teeth? It can also help saliva neutralize the plaque-causing acids in your mouth.

Plaque on Teeth Leads to Tartar Buildup 

With time, if you do not remove the plaque, minerals from your saliva will deposit on the plaque biofilm. As a result, the film will harden within 24 to 72 hours, turning into tartar. You can try removing plaque at home, but tartar removal requires the help of your dentist and professional tools.  

Do you know that 68% of adults have tartar? Tartar is a yellow or light brown-colored deposit formed when plaque hardens on your tooth surface. Because tartar build-up is strongly bonded to your tooth enamel, it can only be removed by your dentist. 


You have a higher chance of developing tartar with crowded teeth, dry mouth, braces, smoking, and aging. For many of you, these deposits build up faster as you age.

Plaque is not easily visible, and it hides between teeth and under the gum line. Hence you cannot avoid it entirely. So it is important for you to maintain a good oral routine to prevent its accumulation seriously. 

How is Plaque on Teeth Treated?

Regular brushing, flossing, and maintaining good oral hygiene can remove plaque and prevent tartar buildup. Regardless of how well you floss and brush your teeth at home, removing plaque developed on your teeth is impossible.

Plaque build-up for a long time could result in the formation of tartar. This tartar is a black substance that sticks to your teeth’ surface and causes gum disease if left unattended. Plaque and tartar both are very difficult to remove with a toothbrush. So your dentist uses special tools to remove this unwanted coating.

Parque build-up is if left for long, it can result in the development of tooth cavities. Cavities build up slowly without any warning. So you can avoid cavities, plaque, and tartar by visiting your dentist regularly.


During a dental examination, your dentist will scrape out the layer of plaque from your teeth. With each step, your treatment cost will automatically increase. For example, getting plaque and tartar removed from your teeth will cost less than getting a tooth cavity filled.

Your dentist may also recommend:

Dental sealants. They are applied to your teeth to keep plaque from forming on the top chewing surfaces.

Dry mouth medications. If you are suffering from dry mouth symptoms, your dentist might prescribe medication that would stimulate saliva flow. If you have a dry mouth, pay special attention to oral hygiene. 

Fluoride treatments. They are very effective in slowing down the growth of plaque-causing bacteria, thus stopping tooth decay.


Prescription toothpaste. Both prescription toothpaste and antibacterial mouthwash contain essential oils that result in less plaque build-up.

How Can You Prevent Plaque on Teeth?

Good dental care is key to reducing plaque on teeth; hence follow these steps:

Brush twice a day: Practice brushing your teeth for two minutes using a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste. Your dentist might also recommend using electric toothbrushes occasionally as it is effective at removing plaque. Try to brush your teeth at least twice a day, and preferably after every meal. Using toothpaste containing baking soda can get rid of your plaque faster. Pay special focus on your gum line, and try to replace your toothbrush once it wears out. 


Floss daily: Floss at least once a day using dental floss or a water flosser. You can easily get rid of food particles and plaque stuck between your teeth. You should floss before brushing as brushing removes particles that become loose while flossing.

Chew sugarless gum: If you are unable to brush soon after a meal, chew sugar-free gum. Choose a chewing gum that has the American Dental Association or ADA seal. Chewing gums that are sugar-free are only beneficial as they are sweetened using non-cavity-causing sweeteners. Your saliva flow can be increased by chewing sugar-free gums, thus reducing plaque acid.

Choose healthy foods: Cut back on sugary foods and beverages. Instead, choose nutritious, healthy foods and snacks such as plain cheese, yogurt, raw green vegetables, or fresh fruits. 

Visit your dentist: Get dental check-ups done at least twice a year or as recommended by your dentist.

Use mouthwash: You can rinse with a prescription antiseptic mouthwash or those found over-the-counter. Most mouth rinses have different active ingredients like probiotic, Chlorhexidine, essential oil, and herbal mouth rinses which effectively fight harmful bacteria.

Bottom Line

Plaque on your teeth is a commonly occurring problem that has an easy fix. Try to brush and floss daily and visit your dentist periodically to get your teeth examined. 

You can also use antiseptic mouthwashes to kill bacteria that might cause plaque. If you allow a film of plaque to develop and stay on your teeth for long, it can harden and develop into tartar. 

Eventually, it will lead to gum disease, and you might even lose your teeth. Therefore, you should have your teeth professionally cleaned at least twice a year. Also, seek help from your dentist about steps you can take to eliminate plaque and protect your oral health.

Without regular cleanings, these layers of sticky plaque may harden into tartar, or it might cause tooth cavities, decay, and gum disease. All this would lead to inflammation in your mouth and can result in severe health problems. So it is a good idea to stay on top of plaque with good dental habits and regular visits to your dentist.