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8 Essential Facts You Need to Know About Plaque and Tartar

15 Sep 2022

From as early as we remember, we’re all told that we need to brush our teeth. This is because regular brushing is the best way to combat plaque buildup and reduce the risk of tooth decay and gum disease. 

Plaque isn’t the only thing you need to worry about. Tartar can also develop if plaque isn’t removed quickly enough. But what’s the difference between plaque and tartar? 

In this guide, we’ll tell you eight things you need to know about plaque and tartar. 

1. Tartar and Plaque Are Not the Same

Plaque and tartar are two words that seem interchangeable, but they’re not quite the same thing. Although used in a very similar context, there are some clear differences between them. 

It’s completely normal to have some plaque in your mouth. This sticky film that coats our teeth is made up of bacteria that naturally live in our mouths. Although this bacteria is harmful, it’s nothing to worry about as long as you look after your teeth. 

Regular, thorough cleaning will ensure that the sticky plaque is removed from your teeth before it has time to settle in and do some serious damage. 

Over time, plaque that’s not been removed calcifies and creates a tough coating on your teeth. This is tartar. It’s also sometimes called calculus. 

2. Tartar Is Easy to Spot

Plaque isn’t easy to see. It can be clear or a very light yellow colour, so looking in the mirror won’t help you spot it. But, by running your tongue over your teeth, you’ll easily notice it. It’ll be more noticeable as the day progresses and before you brush your teeth in the morning. 

Tartar, on the other hand, is clearly visible when you smile. The hard calcified bacteria will be a deeper shade of yellow or even turn brown. 

People with lots of tartar on their teeth often become self-conscious about their smiles. 

3. You Can’t Remove Tartar Yourself

Unlike plaque, you can’t clean tartar off your teeth yourself. The calcified bacteria won’t come off no matter how hard you brush. 

Dentists and hygienists use special tools to loosen and scrape away the tartar. 

Although it’s possible to buy some dental tools online or find sharp objects around the home, it’s crucial that you don’t try to remove tartar yourself. Because of how close tartar forms to your gum line, you risk seriously damaging your teeth and cutting into soft gum tissue too.

We’d always recommend making an appointment with our dental hygiene specialist, who will use the latest tools such as Prophyflex to remove the tartar safely and effectively. 

4. You Can Prevent Tartar

Because tartar comes from not removing the plaque from your teeth, it’s preventable. If you don’t have tartar in your mouth, the best thing to do is maintain great oral health habits. 

This means brushing your teeth in the morning and evening for two minutes at a time. Use fluoride toothpaste, and ensure you’re giving equal amounts of care and attention to every area of your mouth. 

Flossing also helps. By using dental floss or a water flosser, you can remove food debris and plaque from the gaps between your teeth and prevent problems from occurring in these hard-to-reach places. 

5. Tartar Leads to Tooth Decay and Gum Disease

Getting into the habit of removing plaque from your teeth will stop tartar from developing.

Once tartar starts to take hold of your teeth, it will slowly start to erode the enamel, allowing bacteria to penetrate your teeth. Initially, we can treat this by filling cavities as they emerge. 

Gradually, tooth decay leads to infections. In some cases, you may need a root canal treatment, while extraction may be the only option in others. 

Because tartar often forms around the bottom of the teeth, it irritates the gums. Tartar can cause the gums to become red, inflamed, and bleed. This is called gingivitis, and it’s the mildest form of gum disease. 

But gum disease worsens. Untreated, pockets of tartar will form. These can seriously harm the gum tissue and penetrate the underlying bone causing your teeth to loosen and eventually fall out. 

6. Having Tartar Makes Brushing Tricky

Once it’s calcified, tartar won’t come off without the help of a dental professional. We use a process called descaling to remove tough tartar. But without that treatment, your teeth will never truly be clean, no matter how well you brush. In some cases, brushing and flossing can even become uncomfortable when you have tartar

7. Altering Your Diet Can Help

Plaque feeds on sugars and starches. The more exposure your teeth and gums have to sugary food and drink, the more likely you are to develop problems. 

Of course, brushing your teeth and flossing after eating anything sugary will help, but by reducing the occurrence`of sugars and starches in your diet, the less fuel you’ll be providing for the bacteria, and the lower your risk of developing tartar. 

Another thing that will help prevent tartar is quitting smoking. Not only do tobacco products harm the flow of saliva in your mouth,  they will contribute to the development of tartar 

8. Regular Checkups Are Essential

The best way to stay ahead of plaque and tartar is to visit your dentist on a regular basis. We’d suggest coming to see us twice a year, and making appointments with the hygienist in between. 

An appointment with us will help us stay ahead of any dental issues, and allow us to spot tartar build ups early, before they cause lasting damage. 

Fight Tartar With Love Teeth

At Love Teeth, we’re here for your basic oral health needs. We’ll help with everything from regular checkups and throrough professional cleaning, to in-depth advice on the best ways to prevent tartar from building up. 

To stop tartar in its tracks, call us today and schedule an appointment at either our Cheam, Chessignton, Stonecot, or Sutton clinics. 


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