Plaque and Calculus

Bacteria in the mouth, Streptococcus mutans, use sucrose to create extracellular polysaccharides called glucans. Glucans allow the bacteria to adhere to one another and to the tooth surface. The resulting biofilm of glucans and bacteria is called plaque.  Plaque can only be readily removed through brushing.

If plaque is not removed, the lactic acid produced by S. mutans starts to eat away at the dental enamel, resulting in caries ("cavities"). Saliva cannot get under the plaque to buffer the acidic environment.

Calculus is mineralized plaque, and is very hard to remove.

(Cawson, Odell 1991)

WOW! It gets that bad!

Severe Calculus


One possible mechanism behind calculus formation is an alkaline oral environment, which increases precipitation of minerals from the saliva.  Some theorize that high protein diets predispose someone to more calculus, also high carbohydrate consumption and 'hardness' of drinking water. (Lieverse 1999)