Why Does Dental Plaque Cause Cavities?

Your pediatric dentist or your family dentist might have talked to you about the importance of making sure you brush your child’s teeth thoroughly twice a day, in order to remove plaque. But what is plaque, and how does it accumulate and damage teeth?

What is Plaque?

Plaque is that sticky film you can feel over the tooth surfaces when you haven’t brushed for quite a few hours. Plaque consists of bacteria and sugars that collect to form a soft sticky film, called a biofilm, over the outer surfaces of your teeth. Everybody’s teeth, including children’s are protected with a hard outer layer of enamel that contains minerals. When teeth are clean and free from plaque, these minerals are being renewed by minerals found in saliva, but when teeth are covered in plaque that is too sticky to be washed away by saliva, then the enamel comes under attack by the acids produced by the bacteria in the plaque, as it uses the sugars that are also in the plaque layer for energy.


How Does Plaque Cause Tooth Decay?

These acids dissolve the tooth enamel, removing some of the minerals so the tooth surfaces become more porous. Eventually tiny holes can appear, and will gradually widen into cavities as your child develops tooth decay.

One of the problems with cavities is that they can initially cause very few symptoms until the decay is relatively well advanced. This can be a real problem for children, as their enamel tends to be more susceptible towards being eaten away, and even worse the pulp of the tooth is closer to the surface. The tooth pulp contains all the nerves of the tooth, and is useful while the tooth is still developing. If it becomes infected then the tooth will begin to ache. While it is sometimes possible to save baby teeth with a pulpotomy, there is the possibility the tooth might need to be removed.

Does it Matter If Kids Lose Their Baby Teeth Too Soon?

It might be easy to think a child’s baby teeth aren’t that important as they will soon be replaced, but imagine trying to learn to speak or eat properly without teeth. In addition, losing these teeth too soon will affect the development and position of their adult teeth. There might not be enough room for them to come through properly, and there is an increased risk they will erupt crooked or out of position. Your child could end up needing braces or other orthodontic work because they lost their baby teeth too early.

Take Action to Keep Baby Teeth Clean and Free from Plaque

We can help you by showing you how best to clean your child’s teeth right from the moment that first tooth pokes through their gums. This is why we like to see parents or caregivers as soon as that first tooth erupts, as we know it can be tricky to thoroughly clean a baby’s teeth, and to know which products are best to use. We’ll also show you how to floss their teeth, as this must be done every day, as soon as their teeth touch the ones next door, and can generally advise you on how to keep their mouth healthy and clean right until they are adults. Cavities don’t have to be part of their childhood, and they don’t have to experience unpleasant toothache.