When talking about oral health, many people get the terms plaque and tartar confused. Although these two oral health concerns are similar, they are different and their treatments will be different as well. Treatment for each is important to avoid extensive damage to your teeth, so let’s learn the difference between plaque and tartar and what you can do to protect your mouth from them!
What Is Plaque?
Nearly everybody has some plaque in their mouth at any given time. Plaque forms over teeth between your twice-daily brushing and is soft and sticky. It can take as little as eight hours to form. It forms on teeth and most notably around the gum line. Plaque is composed of bacteria that includes particles from food and your own saliva.
Luckily for patients, plaque is easily removed with proper brushing and flossing. Regular dental checkups are also important because there are places plaque can hide, especially if you have overcrowded or misaligned teeth. If plaque isn’t removed on a regular basis via your daily brushing, it can damage your teeth and gums and eventually turn into tartar.
What Is Tartar?
Tartar is a hard substance that forms from plaque that’s left to build up on your teeth. It has a hard appearance and is generally obvious once it forms due to its color (which can range from yellow to brown). Plaque can progress to tartar over time, and tartar can grow in your mouth if nothing is done about it.
Once tartar forms, it can only be removed by a professional oral health care specialist such as your local dentist. Since tartar is very hard and porous, trying to remove it yourself will cause more damage than good. If not removed, tartar can lead to tooth decay and gum disease and eventually tooth loss.
Your dentist will carefully remove the tartar with special instruments and perform a deep cleaning which includes your gums. Sometimes tartar can form below your gums, in which case surgery would be needed to properly remove and treat the tartar.
How to Avoid Buildup of Plaque That Leads to Formation of Tartar
Plaque is common and is a daily occurrence in most patients, depending on how often they brush and their brushing skills. Regular checkups can also help your dentist determine problem areas in your mouth, such as where plaque easily forms and what you can do about it.
To avoid plaque formation, simply brush twice a day and floss once a day. It’s that easy! Hard brushing isn’t needed and can actually cause further damage to your enamel. It doesn’t take a lot of force to remove plaque—gentle brushing with a quality toothbrush will do the trick. Flossing once a day can help remove plaque in places that your toothbrush can’t reach!
If you already have tartar forming on your teeth or suspect you have tartar, don’t ignore it! The tartar can and will get worse if not removed professionally. Schedule an appointment with your dentist to remove the tartar. Your dentist can help you adopt healthy practices that will lead to a healthy smile for life!
Image courtesy of Fotographic1980 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net