Tooth bacteria. Coloured scanning electron micrograph (SEM) of bacteria from the surface of a human tooth. The mixture of bacteria, saliva and carbohydrates is known as plaque. It is a cause of tooth decay (caries) and can also lead to the formation of tartar (calculus). Deposition of tartar in the spaces between the tooth and gum (the gingival crevices) causes gum disease (periodontal disease), which is characterised in its early stages by swollen, inflamed gums which bleed easily. Untreated, the plaque may spread under the tooth, which might loosen and fall out. This image shows the typical 'corncob' arrangement of streptococci held by an extracellular polysaccharide matrix on a web of central filamentous microorganisms. Magnification: x3,500 when printed at 10 centimetres wide.
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