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Tartar & Plaque

Tartar & Plaque

Causes, Prevention, and Treatment of Plaque and Tartar

Are you wondering about plaque removal? Or do you ever think “I brush and floss and still get plaque!”

You’ve come to the right place. This article will answer all of your questions on dental plaque.

What is plaque?

  • A sticky film of bacteria, saliva, and bits of food
  • Sticks to your teeth; especially along the gum line and chewing surfaces
  • Releases acids that break down your teeth, leading to health complications

What causes plaque?

  • Eating, drinking, and breathing causes microorganisms to mix with bits of food and saliva
  • It forms in your mouth constantly
  • Accelerated by foods and drinks high in sugar and carbohydrates

What is tartar?

  • An advanced form of plaque that is much more difficult to remove and presents more significant health risks
  • The only effective method of tartar removal is professional teeth cleaning

What causes tartar?

  • Over time, plaque accumulates minerals and hardens into tartar

How to prevent plaque and tartar?

  • Practicing good oral hygiene
  • Using an electric toothbrush
  • Eating well-balanced meals
  • Avoiding snacks between meals
  • Avoiding tobacco products
  • Drinking alcohol only in moderation
  • Chewing sugar-free gum

How to treat plaque and tartar?

  • Flossing correctly before brushing your teeth twice each day
  • Brushing correctly twice each day or after a sugary snack
  • Using mouthwash
  • Getting a dental check-up every six months

What is plaque?

Plaque is a build-up of bacteria, saliva, and bits of food on your teeth held together in a sticky film. The American Dental Academy (ADA) says more than 500 bacterial species are found in plaque. Some are good for your mouth, and others not so much.

Plaque tends to form excessively along the gum lines and the chewing surfaces of your teeth, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

This is a problem because the harmful bacteria strains release acid that breaks down the surfaces of your teeth.

If this issue isn’t addressed, excessive plaque on teeth can lead to complications such as tooth decay, gingivitis, and gum disease.

What causes plaque?

When you eat, drink, and breathe, bacteria and other organisms mix with bits of food and saliva to form plaque on teeth. Consequently, plaque is continually forming in your mouth—as soon as 20 minutes after eating.

The CDC warns that eating and drinking foods high in sugar or carbohydrates cause bacteria to produce acids that break down the outer coating of the tooth or root surface.

That’s why it’s so essential to maintain an excellent oral hygiene routine and attend regular dental cleanings with us. We can spot plaque underneath your gums that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to clean!

What is tartar?

According to the ADA, plaque that is not removed eventually hardens into tartar, also known as calculus.

Tartar is a lot worse than plaque. The ADA notes that tartar irritates gum tissue faster than plaque and may cause gums to bleed—a symptom of gingivitis.

It’s also tough to remove and clean.

The American Academy of Periodontology relates that tartar cannot be removed with a toothbrush. Instead, a dental professional must remove it during a dental cleaning.

What causes tartar?

While plaque build-up is soft and easy to remove, it is vital to do so promptly.

Over time, plaque accumulates minerals from your saliva and hardens into tartar. It appears as an off-white or yellow substance.

How to prevent plaque and tartar?

There are many methods you can use to prevent the growth of plaque and tartar, such as:

  • Practicing good oral hygiene. Healthline recommends brushing for two minutes, twice every day and after eating sugary foods.
  • Using an electric toothbrush. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, electric toothbrushes clean better than manual ones.
  • Eating well-balanced meals with less sugary foods and carbs.
  • Avoiding snacks between meals—especially with sticky or sugary foods.
  • Refraining from smoking or chewing tobacco.
  • Drinking alcohol only in moderation.
  • Chewing sugar-free gum. The ADA contends that chewing sugar-free gum helps to neutralize and wash away harmful acids, strengthening teeth and reducing tooth decay.

To prevent plaque and tartar, it is also essential to know how to brush and floss correctly. We can show you the proper techniques during your next check-up!

How to treat plaque and tartar?

The best way to manage existing plaque is by implementing a great oral hygiene routine, which consists of flossing, brushing, and using mouthwash.

Before brushing your teeth, make sure to floss. Flossing is equally as important as brushing, as the ADA notes flossing removes plaque that toothbrushes simply can’t reach.

Health Canada lists the steps to floss properly:

  • Pull out the length of your arm in dental floss.
  • Wrap the floss around each of your middle fingers, leaving an inch between your two fingers.
  • Hold the floss in place with your thumb and index fingers.
  • Wrap the floss around the tooth.
  • Gently slide the floss up and down between your tooth and your gums.
  • Use a new section of floss when you move to a new space between teeth.

To brush your teeth, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends:

  • Gently brushing your teeth on all sides with a soft-bristle brush and toothpaste.
  • Using small circular motions and short back-and-forth strokes.
  • Brushing carefully and gently along your gum line.
  • Lightly brushing your tongue to help keep your mouth clean.

You should brush your teeth twice each day and after eating sugary snacks.

The Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research emphasizes the effectiveness of mouthwash when brushing and flossing, as it significantly reduces plaque and gingivitis.

Outside of your oral hygiene routine, it is necessary to visit us for a dental check-up every six months to remove tartar and hard-to-reach plaque.

Do you have questions about tartar and plaque?

Done with excessive plaque on your teeth? Want to get rid of tartar? That’s what we do. Regular dental check-ups are a must for removing plaque and tartar. Unfortunately, the American Academy of Periodontology notes that self-administered plaque control is inconsistent in fighting gingivitis in the long-term. 

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