Our Elmhurst Dentists Educate Patients On The Root Causes Of Dental Decay And Damage

Written by Dr. Scharfenberg on Feb 26, 2019

Our Elmhurst dentists truly believe that the more our patients know about the mechanics of dental decay, the more empowered they are to care for their smiles. That is why we have put together this quick overview of common causes of dental infections. We hope that this information gives you a better idea of what’s happening inside of your mouth, day in and day out!


Plaque is a sticky film that is full of oral bacteria. Plaque develops every day and night; it’s a byproduct of eating, drinking, and breathing. There’s no way to completely avoid plaque production, but you do want to take steps to minimize the amount of plaque on your smile. The bacteria inside of plaque feed on oral sugars in the mouth, and release harmful acids as a result. This is why plaque build-up puts you at increased risk of developing cavities and gum disease.


Tartar is plaque that has been allowed to sit on the patient’s smile, undisturbed, for a day or two. Essentially, tartar is plaque that is calcified—it has hardened and bonded to the tooth structure. Tartar gives oral bacteria an even more stable and permanent environment in which to thrive.

Cleaning Guidelines

By brushing and flossing your smile as recommended by your dentist (for most of us, this means brushing twice a day, and flossing every night), you clear away newly developed plaque, and refresh your smile. Semi-annual professional cleanings allow our team to eliminate accumulated tartar, which is too hard for patients to get rid of their own.

Symptoms of Decay

If you are dealing with an existing oral infection, you may notice symptoms such as:

  • Tooth sensitivity
  • Dark spots on the enamel
  • Bleeding gum tissue
  • Swollen gum tissue
  • Persistent bad breath
  • Gum tissue that is pulling away from the tooth structure

Keep in mind that, sometimes, dental infections progress asymptomatically, so it’s also important to keep up with your schedule of professional dental assessments.

As always, our Elmhurst dentists are here to answer any questions that you may have about caring for your smile—we look forward to speaking with you!