Plaque is a substance that coats your teeth and makes them feel rough or fuzzy, whereas brushed teeth should feel smooth. Plaque is mostly bacteria, but can also contain food particles. As plaque is constantly forming in the mouth, daily brushing can remove plaque before it has a chance to turn into tartar.
Tartar—also known as dental calculus—is essentially plaque that has calcified, or turned into a hardened form. While plaque can be removed at home with a toothbrush and floss, tartar is so hard that it can only be removed by your dentist.
How do plaque and tartar harm your smile? Read on to discover how each of these substances can affect your dental health!
Plaque Harms Tooth Enamel
The bacteria in plaque produces acids that can break down tooth enamel . Not only does this weaken your tooth’s protective layer and cause tooth sensitivity, but it can also increase your risk for cavities. Your teeth may also be more susceptible to stains as tooth enamel wears away, making it important that you brush your teeth twice a day and floss once a day to remove plaque and prevent enamel damage!
Tartar Can Cause Bad Breath and Stains
Tartar is generally a more yellow or brown color than plaque, which is generally colorless. It’s usually much more noticeable on the teeth. Tartar takes less time to form than people think—just two days if plaque is not removed !
Not only can tartar cause bad breath, but it can destroy tooth enamel just like plaque. It can also make it more difficult for you to remove plaque from your smile, increasing the chances of plaque-related damage such as tooth sensitivity, cavities, and staining.
Both Plaque and Tartar Affect Your Gums
Your gums play an essential role in supporting your teeth. Unfortunately, plaque and tartar can both harm gum tissue by accumulating around the gumline. What this does is irritate the gum tissue, causing redness, swelling, and potentially bleeding.
If not removed, plaque and tartar can eventually cause an infection in the gum tissue known as gum disease. The teeth will not only be harder to clean, but gum tissue may begin to pull away from the teeth, causing sensitive and loose teeth . Eventually, tooth loss can result.
How Can You Keep Your Smile Healthy?
Besides brushing and flossing regularly at home, there are a few things you can do to prevent plaque and tartar from harming your smile!
- Always keep regular appointments with your dentist. Getting professional exams and teeth cleanings can remove plaque and tartar from places that your toothbrush and floss may not be able to reach. This can help prevent cavities, enamel damage, sensitivity, tooth decay, and gum disease!
- Eat healthy. Eating a balanced diet and minimizing your consumption of added sugar—which can increase plaque formation—can support a healthy smile and even reduce plaque buildup in your oral cavity.
- Consider an electric toothbrush. Research shows that electric toothbrushes do a better job of removing plaque than manual ones . If you have a history of gum disease, ask your dentist about going electric!
Worried About Plaque and Tartar Buildup?
If you’re worried that plaque and tartar are sabotaging your smile, it could be time to get a professional exam and cleaning. Call your dentist today to ensure your smile isn’t being more affected by plaque and tartar than you think!