What does plaque look like?

What does plaque look like? My infant daughter has a yellow rim on her teeth by her gums. Is this plaque? I brush her teeth but she doesn't want me to do it for very long. I don't know if I am doing a good enough job.

I also have a question about the kind of sippy cup she uses. She has a no-spill cup that she sometimes takes to bed with her. She also carries it around quite a bit during the day. Will drinking from this kind of cup harm the way her teeth are forming?


Plaque is usually a clear, white, or sometimes yellow soft buildup on the teeth which can be removed by brushing, flossing or wiping the teeth. Tartar is the hardened form of plaque and is usually white, yellow or brown. Once tartar has formed, it cannot be brushed away. It must be scrapped off by a dentist or hygienist. For a great color photo of plaque and tartar on a dog's canine tooth, see the article on Veterinary Dentistry by Dr. Verstraete at http://www.smiledoc.com/dentist/pets.html.

Try to brush your daughter's teeth. If it is plaque, you should at least be able to move it around on her teeth. If it won't budge, it is probably tartar. To have tartar removed at her young age can be tricky. Dentists don't like to see tartar remain on teeth too long because it harbors plaque, is an irritant to the gum tissue, and can become more difficult to remove the longer it remains on the teeth.

I recommend either scheduling an appointment for an exam or, if you have an appointment coming up, call your dentist to see if he or she would do a quick exam on your daughter too. Then you can discuss options, including a referral to a children's dentist (i.e. pedodontist) if deemed necessary.

With regards to the sippy cup, it is less likely to cause damage to the development of teeth and jaws than a pacifier, a bottle, a thumb, or a finger because your daughter is able to apply a relatively less significant sucking force to the cup. However, she should not have the cup constantly in her mouth. If she is moving with the cup in her mouth (running, walking or crawling), she may fall and injure a tooth or jam the cup up into her palate. For these reasons, she should be discouraged from carrying the cup when she moves.

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