What is biofilm? Biofilm is a microscopic community of bacteria that can build-up in wet places, including your mouth. If you’ve ever picked up a rock from a stream or a puddle and noticed a slimy film on it’s surface – that’s a type of biofilm! Plaque biofilm is a also a type of biofilm found in your mouth that’s associated with gum disease and cavities. It harbors up to 200 different types of bacteria, but not all of them harmful. It can start forming just a few hours after you brush your teeth! At first, it’s a sticky colorless deposit, but when it accumulates it forms tartar which can appear as brown or pale yellow.
How does this plaque biofilm cause a cavity? The plaque sits in the grooves of your teeth and feeds off foods like simple carbohydrates and sugars. The bacteria and food create an acidic environment for your teeth, that begins to break down enamel. Your saliva is unable to penetrate the build-up of plaque or neutralize the acid produced by the bacteria, so it can’t remineralize the surface. Once enough enamel is destroyed that it enters the next layer of tooth structure (dentin), it’s now a cavity.
How does this plaque biofilm cause a gum diseases? When plaque sits along your gum line it causes a gum infection. A minor gum infection called gingivitis can take only two days to occur if the plaque isn’t removed. At first your gums react to the bacteria and become inflamed as a protective measure. At this point the infection can be completely painless, but can cause your gums to look puffy or bleed when you brush your teeth. If the plaque remains undisturbed it starts to travel below the gum line to cause an infection called Periodontitis. Once it is below the gum line, the bacteria that is found in the plaque start producing toxins that actually attack the bone and slowly break it down, eventually causing tooth loss.
Removing biofilm through regular brushing, flossing, and cleanings is the key to preventing it from building up and causing cavities and gum disease.