Learn the Meanings of Common Dental Terminology

Archive for Plaque


This is a medical term that means to prevent disease. This is oppose to curing or treating a medical condition.

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While harmful in high concentrations, a low concentration can be found in many products like mouthwash or contact lens solution. It is used to fight against fungi and enveloped viruses. For dental use it most effective for reducing plaque and oral bacteria. Chlorhexidine lasts longer than other mouth washes and is the preferred treatment for gingivitis.

There are some negative effects of long term use of Chlorhexidine including stains on teeth and may alter taste sensations.


Dental plaque is a biofilm that adheres to the surface of teeth. Biofilms are an accumulation of microorganisms that also contain bacterial cells that can infect gum and bone tissues. Colonies of these microorganisms adhere and develop stronger bonds over time on the surface of the tooth. Plaque can cause periodontal disease and needs to be scraped off by a dentist at least once year or more.

Periodontal Disease

The two main categories of periodontal disease are gingivitis and periodontitis. In most cases gingivitis proceeds periodontitis. These type of diseases affect the periodontal tissues which are the tissues that support the teeth. Inflammation and infection break down destroying the gums which can cause teeth to fall out.

Brushing your teeth regularly will help keep you from getting periodontal disease, however, almost everyone has some stage of gingivitis.  Your gum tissue is subject to bacteria constantly. Some of this bacteria is collected into plaque which adheres to your teeth and can aggravate your gum tissue. Plaque is hard to get off with a tooth brush. That is why you need to have a dentist scrape of the plaque with special dental tools.

Severe periodontal disease can lead to other serious health problems such as heart disease, stroke and respiratory disease.


Sometimes confused with Gingivitis, however, gingivitis happens before periodontitis. Periodontitis is severe and is a result of untreated gingivitis. Gums become inflamed and or infected which will deteriorate the support for the teeth.

Plaque and tartar buildup and contain bacteria that can be trapped in pockets of swelling tissue. This will eventually cause the destruction of gum, bone and ligament tissue. A tooth abscess may also develop.

Gums will appear red-purple and swollen. Often a bad breath odor accompanies peritontitis. Gums may be tender but not necessarily painful. Blood on toothbrush is often a sign that some stage of periodontitis is occurring.

Left untreated will cause tooth loss and possible infection to the jaw bone.

Depending on the severity, surgery may be necessary to repair gums and loose teeth.  After correcting gum and tooth structure a long with the removal of plaque and calculus deposits a meticulous oral hygiene regimen is needed to prevent further deterioration.