Periodontal Health Information: Plaque and Gum Disease

Posted on: June 16, 2019

The accumulation of plaque and tartar can adversely affect periodontal health. The first stage of gum disease, known as gingivitis, is usually simpler to correct. Advanced gum disease, called periodontitis, can cause tooth loss. Regular flossing, brushing and dental visits are essential for avoiding these issues.

What are dental plaque and tartar?

Dental plaque is a thin film of bacteria and acid deposits on the teeth surface. The bacteria feed on the sugars in the foods you consume and produce acids. These acids are what cause enamel erosion and tooth decay. Plaque can easily be cleaned off the teeth by flossing and brushing.

Tartar is plaque that has hardened after absorbing calcium and phosphate minerals from the saliva. These minerals help to strengthen the enamel. When they crystallize in plaque, the plaque turns to calculus that binds tightly with the teeth. The initial color of a calculus deposit is yellow, but they tend to darken and harden over time. Only a dentist or dental hygienist has the special tools required to clean calculus.

Gum disease

Teeth are supported by the gum, bone and periodontal ligaments which bind the teeth to the bone. These ligaments also function as shock absorbers. The tissues are jointly known as the periodontium. Gum disease is the term for infection or inflammation of the tissues supporting the teeth. Gum disease is divided into two: Gingivitis and periodontitis.


Gingivitis is gum inflammation. It is a reversible condition that occurs as a reaction to the formation of plaque on the teeth and gums. Once the plaque is removed, periodontal health is restored. Any pain, redness or swelling should subside.


Periodontitis is inflammation surrounding the tooth. In the initial stages, the symptoms are identical to those of gingivitis, but as the condition worsens, it starts to destroy other periodontal tissues. The destructive effect of periodontitis is typically permanent.

Once periodontitis sets in, the inflamed gums slack around the teeth. This creates a gap or pocket between the gum and tooth. This is known as the periodontal pocket. The pocket provides a suitable ground for plaque accumulation and causes a localized infection. This gum infection destroys the bones and gum tissues, which further deepens the gum pockets. If untreated, the condition will worsen until the teeth loosen and ultimately fall out or need extraction.

The dentist will assess the extent of the disease by checking the depth of the pockets created around the gum and tooth. The purpose of the treatment is to eliminate plaque and calculus on the teeth and gum pockets to inhibit further damage to the gum tissues. You can clean out plaques from shallow gum pockets through normal brushing and cleaning. However, deep pockets must be treated by a dentist or dental hygienist.

Caring for your teeth and gums

To preserve your periodontal health and prevent plaque and gum diseases, you need to start practicing excellent oral hygiene. Regular visits to the dentist will also help prevent plaque buildup. If you have not seen a dentist for some time or have any questions, call our office to schedule a visit.

Request an appointment here: or call Portola Dental Group at (760) 201-4085 for an appointment in our Palm Desert office.

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