Plaque is the accumulation of bacteria and food debris that manifests itself as a soft sticky substance stuck on tooth surfaces. Appearance wise plaque is yellow-white and can be removed by daily brushing and flossing. However if plaque accumulates it can lead to various oral diseases. Since plaque contains a variety of different types of bacteria different types of plaque are associated with different dental diseases. These include dental decay calculus formation and gingivitis.
Since plaque begins to form on one's teeth as quickly as four hours after brushing the best way to prevent diseases caused by plaque is by daily brushing and flossing. However since the rate it forms and its location varies between individuals and also between the teeth in individual mouths it is difficult to specify concrete ways to fight plaque.
Plaque can harden into calculus (tartar) which leads to the formation of a tough crusty deposit that cannot be removed by brushing or flossing. Rather these deposits that can form supragingival (above) or subgingival (below) the gum line. Tartar is always covered by a layer of nonmineralized plaque and is a significant factor in periodontal disease. In order to prevent further progression of periodontal disease these deposits must be removed by one's dentist.
Plaque is also a significant factor in tooth decay as it secretes acid due to bacteria digesting food items left on one's teeth and gums after eating. Due to the effect of the acid dissolving tooth structure cavity(s) occur.