The key difference between Materia alba and plaque is that Materia alba is a soft white accumulation on teeth while plaque is a yellow greyish hard accumulation on teeth.
Accumulation of bacteria and other forms of cells on teeth is a common issue among many individuals. This mostly occurs due to the practice of unhealthy dental procedures, especially poor oral hygiene during cleaning after meals. This accumulation could be either soft accumulation or organized hard accumulation. Materia alba is the soft accumulation of such bacterial films, while plaque is the hard organized accumulation of bacterial films.
What is a Materia Alba?
Materia alba is a soft non-mineralized deposit on the surface of teeth that is white in colour. It is soft and visible to the naked eye. This soft accumulation of bacterial film can be destroyed with a water spray as it consists of a poorly organized structure. It accumulates in the cervical area and the oral mucosa of teeth.
The formation of Materia alba is associated with poor oral hygiene as it contains food debris, dead tissue cells, and microorganisms. It usually takes place due to poor mechanical cleaning and self-cleaning and can be washed and removed easily without leaving any clinical trace. Materia alba comprises bacteria, leukocytes, desquamated epithelial cells, and salivary proteins. If left untreated, Materia alba leads to dental plaque and thereby causes severe dental issues.
What is a Plaque?
Plaque is a yellow-greyish, sticky filmy form of microbial community that develops on the tooth surface with an organized structure of bacterial polymers. Bacteria that grow on plaque produce acids after the intake of food. Plaque can occur under the gums on tooth roots and cause breakage of bones that support teeth. The adverse effect of dental plaque is that the bacteria present in the plaque release acids that destroy the tooth enamel and cause cavities and gingivitis.
Plaque is a common factor in many individuals to some degree. A person is prone to get plaque due to high intake of sugary and starchy foods and drinks, smoking, presence of a dry mouth, and using of medication such as antidepressants. Plaque causes bad breath, red and swollen gums, sensitive gums that bleed after brushing, etc. Plaque can be managed by practicing good oral hygiene with regular brushing and flossing. If the condition is severe, a dental professional will recommend dental sealants, fluoride treatments, and dry mouth medications to increase saliva production.
What are the Similarities Between Materia Alba and Plaque?
- Materia alba and plaque are forms of bacterial films that occur in teeth.
- The causative factor for both types is poor dental hygiene.
- Moreover, they can be removed with different procedures.
- Both types degrade the quality of life and personality of an individual.
What is the Difference Between Materia Alba and Plaque?
Materia alba is a soft white accumulation, while plaque is a yellow greyish hard accumulation. Thus, this is the key difference between Materia alba and plaque. Materia alba is a salivary matrix of glycoproteins and extracellular polysaccharides. Plaque is a mix of salivary proteins, bacteria, desquamated epithelial cells, and food debris in a tight matrix. Moreover, Materia alba does not have an organized structure, while plaque has an organized structure.
The below infographic presents the differences between Materia alba and plaque in tabular form for side-by-side comparison.
Summary – Materia Alba vs Plaque
Accumulation of bacteria and other forms of cells on teeth is a common symptom among many individuals who have unhealthy teeth. Due to poor oral hygiene, these accumulations lead up to two types of conditions called Materia alba and plaque. Materia alba is a soft white accumulation, while plaque is a yellow greyish hard accumulation. Materia alba consists of bacteria present in the salivary matrix of glycoproteins and extracellular polysaccharides. Plaque consists of salivary proteins, bacteria, desquamated epithelial cells, and food debris in a tight matrix. Both types degrade the quality of life and personality of an individual. So, this summarizes the difference between Materia alba and plaque.
1. ID;, Salkind A;Oshrain HI;Mandel. “Materia Alba and Dental Plaque.” Journal of Periodontology, U.S. National Library of Medicine.
2. “The Relationship of Materia Alba and Dental Plaque to Periodontal Disease.” Online Library Wiley.