Why do my teeth feel sticky?

Why do my teeth feel sticky

Sticky or tacky sensations on your teeth are often felt when you don’t brush your teeth. Mostly, it happens due to the build-up of a slimy layer of plaque on your teeth. However, there are a few other reasons that can make your teeth feel sticky.

Let’s go through the list of things that could make your teeth feel sticky and methods to confirm it.

What do your teeth feel sticky?

Plaque is a thin, sticky film of bacteria and salivary proteins that forms on teeth. When it accumulates, it can make your teeth feel sticky. This is especially common after eating sugary or starchy foods, as the bacteria in plaque feed on sugars, producing acids that contribute to the stickiness.

Dental plaque is composed of bacteria, saliva, broken-down food, and sticky substances produced by bacteria, such as mucopolysaccharides. 

Plaque formation on the teeth involves the following steps:

  • A thin pellicle layer forms on the teeth a few minutes after brushing. It contains salivary proteins and forms a protective barrier on the teeth. Oral bacteria are transported passively to the tooth surface by the force of salivary flow.
  • The bacteria attach themselves to the tooth surface by binding to salivary proteins or their attachments. The plaque bacteria also tend to bind to other bacteria, further diversifying the composition of bacterial plaque. 
  • Next, the adherent bacteria produce high molecular weight sugar-based polymers called extracellular polysaccharides (EPS). These polysaccharides act as a molecular glue, allowing the bacterial cells to adhere to each other and the tooth surfaces.
  • If the plaque is not removed, it mineralizes to tartar. The hardened plaque is also known as dental calculus and can’t be removed by toothbrushing.

If you don’t brush your teeth, plaque thickens and gives you slimy and sticky feeling on your teeth.

How do you know if the sticky feeling on the teeth is plaque

The following factors can help you identify the cause behind the sticky feeling on your teeth. 

Check your salivary flow

A decreased salivary flow makes your mouth dry and causes lips to stick to your teeth. There are several reasons for this:

  • Certain medications 
  • Stress, depression, or anxiety
  • Head and neck radiotherapy 
  • Sjogren’s syndrome (an autoimmune disease that affects salivary glands) 

The following signs and symptoms suggest that you have dry mouth or decreased salivary flow:

  • Thick stringy saliva 
  • Redness of gums and oral lining
  • Frequent ulcers or trauma to the lining of the mouth
  • Teeth sticking to lips or cheeks 
  • Dryness of the mouth experienced throughout the day

If you experience a sticky feeling on the teeth due to dry mouth, consult your GP or dentist.

Consumption of An oxalic acid-rich diet

If you have been frequently consumed oxalic acid-rich foods, you may experience weird feelings on your teeth. The oxalic acid from food mixes with calcium ions in the saliva and form salts of calcium oxalate. Calcium oxalate is insoluble in saliva and adheres to the teeth, giving you a strange gritty, sticky and chalky feeling on the teeth. 

Green leafy vegetables (spinach and kale), sweet potatoes, beets, swiss chard, cocoa powder, green beans, rhubarb, etc., are high in oxalates and should be consumed in moderation.

The teeth feel clean after brushing

If the sticky feeling on your teeth goes away after toothbrushing, it’s a telltale sign of plaque deposition on the teeth.

Identify plaque using Plaque-disclosing tablets

The use of plaque disclosing tablets shows the areas of plaque accumulation. These tablets are an effective way to identify if the stickiness on teeth is due to plaque. 

How to use plaque-disclosing tablets?

  • Chew the tablet and allow it to mix with saliva.
  • Plaque disclosing contains harmless dyes that stain the areas where plaque is present.
  • Stained areas on the teeth indicate plaque build-up. 

If the sticky feeling doesn’t resolve with brushing and persists after a week, it is best to consult your dentist.

After how long the sticky feeling on the teeth returns?

Plaque starts to deposit within a few hours after toothbrushing. After 24 hours, you may experience the teeth being coated by a white layer when wiped with a tongue.

As the plaque matures, the bacteria produce more mucous and other polysaccharides that give a sticky feeling to the teeth. 

You may not experience the sticky feeling on the teeth during the early stages of plaque formation. However, as the plaque layer gets thicker, you can experience the sticky feeling on the teeth as early as day 2 without brushing.

what does plaque look like?

Dental plaque forms a white layer on the teeth and is more frequently seen between the teeth. Also, you can feel a layer covering your teeth and gums when you wipe it with your tongue. Plaque-disclosing tablets or toothpaste is one way to see it. 

Plaque is also associated with bad breath, which can be very embracing.  

How does plaque destroy your teeth and gums?

People with bad oral hygiene and plaque deposits may develop one or more of the following diseases:

  • Cavities 
  • Gingivitis 
  • Periodontitis 


The bacteria in the plaque metabolize dietary sugars and convert them into organic acid. The frequent acid attack erodes minerals from the enamel, allowing bacteria to break into the tooth and initiate cavities.

Gingivitis or gum inflammation 

Plaque can also irritate the gums, leading to inflammation of gums, which is known as gingivitis. 

Periodontitis or Advanced gum disease

If the plaque is not removed and stays there for months, it builds up below the gums and destroys the fibers that attach teeth to the bone. As a result, the gums lose their attachment, and a pocket forms between the gums and teeth.

The depth of this pocket determines the amount of attachment loss that has occurred over time. The whole process is slow, with active and silent phases. If not controlled, periodontitis or advanced gum disease may lead to tooth loss.

How to remove this sticky substance from the teeth?

The following are a few ways to remove plaque from the teeth and improve oral hygiene;

  • Brushing teeth twice daily with fluoridated toothpaste is essential for plaque control. 
  • Proper brushing technique is also critical for effective plaque removal. Dentists recommend placing the toothbrush bristle at 45 degrees on the gums and swiping it downwards for the upper teeth and vice versa. 
  • Use a soft bristles toothbrush to avoid damage to the teeth and gums.
  • Tartar can’t be removed at home and requires scaling and polishing. American Dental Association (ADA) recommends annual or biannual scaling and polishing to remove tartar deposits beneath the gums. 
  • Stop the consumption of refined and processed foods and replace them with whole grains, vegetables, and fruits.


Is it okay to scrape plaque off?

Yes, it is okay to remove plaque twice daily to avoid teeth and gum-related diseases. Plaque is a soft deposit and should be removed with a soft toothbrush, and dental floss. 

Tartar, a hardened and calcified plaque, is firmly glued to the teeth, and is difficult to remove at home. Avoid using sharp objects or DIY tartar scrapers to remove tartar at home, as it can damage your teeth and gums. Schedule your appointment with your dentist for scaling and polishing.

The ultrasonic scaler, used to remove tartar, has a vibrating ultrasonic scaler tip that removes tartar deposits without damaging enamel. Also, the long, thin ultrasonic tips remove tartar deposits from the deep pockets.

Periodic scaling and polishing prevent tartar buildup and keep your gums and teeth healthy.  

Why is there so much plaque on my bottom teeth?

The plaque calcifies to tartar more rapidly on the inside surface of the lower teeth. The duct of the submandibular gland opens on the floor of the mouth near the lower front teeth. The saliva released from the gland is rich in calcium and other minerals that cause the hardening of the plaque. 

Also, the inner surfaces of lower teeth are challenging to clean and are neglected if you are in a rush. It is, therefore, advised to brush your teeth in the morning and at bedtime properly. 

Is it normal to have a bit of plaque on teeth?

Healthy teeth and gums require complete plaque removal. Surprisingly, an average individual removes 60% of plaque from their teeth. A toothbrush doesn’t remove the plaque stuck between the teeth and requires daily flossing. 

It is not advisable to leave plaque on the teeth intentionally. It’s advised to brush your teeth twice a day to remove all the plaque on the teeth. The plaque removal also keeps bacterial growth in check and prevents bad breath.  

Why do my teeth feel slimy after brushing?

The teeth feel slimy if a thick layer of plaque isn’t completely removed from the teeth. This happens when you try to rush the toothbrushing. For adequate plaque removal, you need to brush your teeth for at least two minutes. Scrubbing each segment of the teeth several times is critical to complete plaque removal. 

Why do my teeth feel dry?

The teeth feel dry because of decreased salivary flow. Saliva keeps teeth and other oral structures moist. The most common cause of dry mouth is dehydration. Check your hydration level if your teeth or mouth feels dry. 

The second most common cause of dry mouth is chronic stress. Prolonged stress decreases salivary flow and makes your mouth dry. Dry mouth is also an early sign of diabetes. So, check with your GP if you constantly have dry mouth/teeth. 

Why does spinach make my teeth feel weird?

Spinach contains oxalic acid, and when you chew the raw spinach, it releases oxalic acid that coats your teeth and gives you a weird feeling on the teeth. 

Why do the back of the teeth feel gritty?

A gritty feeling on the back of the teeth can be due to tartar build-up. Often, the inner sides of the teeth are not adequately brushed and get tartar deposits.

The gritty feel on the back of the teeth could also be due to raw spinach intake. Moreover, frequent puking (seen in bulimia nervosa) or excessive consumption of soda can erode the inner surfaces of your teeth.

Why do my teeth feel slimy after braces?

It isn’t unusual to experience a slimy feeling on the teeth after braces. The irregular bracket surface (bracket/braces wings) provides additional surface area for plaque to adhere. Typically, the outer surface of the teeth where you get braces is the least likely to get plaque deposits because of their smooth, self-cleansing nature. 

Braces attract plaque, and if not kept clean, you will likely experience slimy teeth. An orthodontic toothbrush or proxa brush has a small head that efficiently cleans the areas around the bracket. 

How to remove oxalic acid from teeth?

Oxalic acid leached from the raw spinach often gives a gritty feeling on the teeth. Oxalic acid is a weak acid (pH 6) and is not harmful to the teeth. Your saliva takes 20-30 minutes to neutralize oxalic acid. You don’t need to anything to get rid of oxalic acid. Also, it is not recommended to brush your teeth during this interval, as toothbrush bristles may damage your enamel.

What is the brown sticky stuff on teeth?

Brown sticky stuff on teeth can be due to tartar. Tatar is a matured plaque that calcifies if not removed within 48 hours. Tartar usually stains and takes green, brown, black, or yellow color depending on your diet. It is more challenging to remove tartar at home because it calcifies and clings firmly to the teeth. 

If you don’t maintain your oral hygiene, more plaque builds over it, which may give you a brown, sticky feeling on the teeth. 

Why are my teeth slimy in the morning?

During sleep, when the body rests, the salivary flow decreases. The average daily saliva production varies between 0.5-1.5 lit. The unstimulated salivary flow throughout the day is 0.3-0.4ml/min and diminishes to 0.1ml/min during sleep. Saliva is composed of 99% water and 1% protein and salts. Due to decreased salivary flow throughout the night, you wake up with slimy teeth in the morning. 

Why does the tooth feel gummy?

A tooth may feel gummy because of the trauma or injury to the gum during eating. Such a gummy feeling is associated with redness, swelling, and pain in the gum tissue. This swelling resolves within a few days. 

Gum overgrowth can also occur due to constant low-grade irritation from tartar deposits. Hard tartar deposits irritate the gums and allow them to grow. The swelling is often seen protruding between the two teeth. 

Why do my teeth stick together when I bite down?

Excessive plaque build-up on the teeth can make your teeth stick together when you bite down. Plaque begins to deposit within 1-2 hours after brushing, and it is, therefore, recommended to brush your teeth twice a day. It is also advised to rinse your mouth after every meal to remove all remaining food particles from the mouth. 

Refined foods such as white bread, cakes, potato crisps, etc., stick to the teeth and may give your teeth a sticky feel when you bite down. Also, dry fruits like prunes, apricots, figs, and resins contain concentrated sugars that readily stick to your teeth.

Saliva contains water, enzymes, proteins, and minerals and forms a thin protective layer on the teeth. It mixes with the food, lubricates it and turns it into a bolus. However, if you suffer from xerostomia (reduced saliva flow), the thick and stringy saliva will make your teeth stick together when you bite down.


Plaque accumulation on your teeth is the most common reason that can make your teeth sticky. You can use plaque-disclosing tablets to confirm it. Dry mouth can also make your teeth stick to your lips. 

Moreover, frequent consumption of an oxalic acid-rich diet may give you a weird, gritty or chalky feeling to the teeth. 

If the sticky feeling doesn’t resolve with brushing and persists after a week, it is best to consult your dentist.

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