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What’s the Difference between Tartar and Plaque?

Even when you brush and floss your teeth every day, the dentist still spends a couple of minutes during your appointment scraping and scratching at your teeth. The dentist is scraping at tartar or calculus, that has built up on your teeth, especially around your gums. If you want to protect your gum line from receding and keep your smile healthy and happy, it is important to prevent plaque and tartar.

What is plaque and how does it form?

After you eat or go a while without brushing your teeth, you might begin to notice a sticky film that covers your teeth. This filmy buildup is called plaque. It forms from food remnants and bacteria which feed on the leftover food. The bacteria multiply when the leftover food is sugary or starchy, which is why it is important to maintain a healthy diet, as it also benefits your teeth.  When the bacteria are left to their own devices, they produce acid which attacks your tooth enamel, causing cavities, tooth pain, periodontal disease, or other gum diseases. 

What is tartar and how does it form? 

If you don’t take care of plaque buildup, it eventually hardens and turns to tartar. This formation occurs when minerals in your saliva interact with the plaque left on your teeth. While plaque is soft and translucent, tartar is tough and yellowish-brown. It is much more difficult to remove, which is why it’s beneficial to take care of easily removable plaque before it turns to tartar. 

How can I prevent tartar from forming?

Plaque is natural for everyone at any age. While you can help to control it, it will still form. However, with good oral practice, you can prevent tartar. 

  • Daily Brushing
    • Brushing your teeth twice a day for two minutes will help rid your teeth of plaque. 
  • Flossing
    • Although brushing your teeth helps remove a lot of plaque, plaque will still form between your teeth where the bristles of your toothbrush won’t reach. Flossing will keep your teeth clean in those hard to reach areas. 
  • Toothpaste 
    • Choosing a tartar-fighting toothpaste can help you control tartar buildup with fluoride. Fluoride helps repair enamel damage done by plaque and fight plaque bacteria. 
  • Mouthwash
    • Using an antiseptic mouthwash will help rinse away any bacteria that are causing plaque buildup. Plus mouthwash will help your breath stay fresh. 
  • Regular Dentist Visits
    • One of the most important reasons to visit the dentist, and why you should go every six months, is to have tartar buildup scraped. Since tartar can only be removed with special tools, only a dentist or dental hygiene professional can help you. Even if you brush and floss your teeth every day, you still might miss some spots that they can help you remove to avoid further complications such as periodontal disease or tooth loss. 
  • Don’t Smoke
    • Tobacco products like cigarettes can lead to an increase in tartar. Smoking has many negative side-effects and quitting will lead to more than just a happy smile. 
  • Diet
    • A healthy diet can help reduce the amount of plaque on your teeth, which will decrease tartar buildup.

Plaque and tartar are both bad for your teeth and can lead to further complications. However, if you take care of your teeth, you can avoid plaque and tartar buildup. If you have tartar buildup already or you are due for your next appointment, contact Grove City Dental.

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Grove City Dental