In a healthy mouth the gums fit snugly around each tooth, and the distance between the gumline and where the gum attaches to the tooth is 3 millimeters or less. This space or pocket area is an ideal spot for plaque to develop. Plaque is a sticky film that forms as a result of the bacteria in the mouth; if plaque is not removed it hardens into tartar. The plaque continues to form on the tartar and can cause swelling of the gum tissue, as the tissue pulls away from the tooth, the pocket depth will increase, making cleaning at home more difficult. Plaque can be removed using brush and floss, but tartar can only be removed by your dentist or hygienist at a professional cleaning appointment. The depth of the pockets around your teeth is a measurement of the level of gum disease. Your cleaning is the first step in treating gum disease, by removing all of the tartar and plaque from your teeth and underneath your gums, the gums can heal and tighten around the tooth again.