What is Tartar?

on November 20, 2013

For our first blog post after being on hiatus, we thought we would discuss the difference between plaque and tartar (also known as dental calculus.)

Plaque and Tartar

You may know that plaque is the build-up of bacteria on your teeth. When you brush your teeth, the plaque is what you are removing. When plaque is not removed, it hardens into tartar which cannot be removed by brushing alone. Tartar has a rough surface, which is ideal for further plaque formation. Once tartar begins to form, it becomes easier for more tartar to form if you do not keep up with your daily oral hygiene routine.

Tartar is easily identified. It appears as a yellow or brown substance or stain on your teeth. In some cases, tartar can be seen on x-rays as well. If your doctor or hygienist believes that you have tartar build up sub gingivally (below the gumline,) or interproximal (between your teeth,) they will take x-rays to confirm.

Removing Tartar

Plaque is relatively easy to remove – it can be removed through daily flossing and twice daily brushing. Tartar is firmly attached to your tooth enamel and is more difficult to remove. Tartar is what your hygienist removes at your re-care appointment. Your hygienist will use scalers to remove the tartar both above and below your gumline. If you haven’t seen your dentist in several years and you have not been keeping up with your at-home oral hygiene routine, a scaling and root planing or full mouth debribment may be recommended. These are deeper cleanings that are needed when the tartar has formed below the gumline and created large periodontal pockets. In these cases, you may be suffering from periodontal disease. The hygienist will use traditional scalers, as well as an ultrasonic scaler to remove all of the tartar.

Avoiding Tartar

The best way to avoid tartar is to keep up with your oral hygiene routine. As we said, tartar forms from plaque that remains on your teeth. If you brush twice a day and floss once a day, to remove the plaque that forms on and between your teeth, you will have less tartar to remove at your routine hygiene appointments.

For some individuals, plaque and tartar forms more quickly. This could be due to diet, genetics, age, or medication that you may be taking. If your plaque and tartar form faster, our Evanston dentists may recommend a shorter hygiene re-care schedule – perhaps every three or four months. For these individuals, this shorter re-care schedule combined with proper home care will keep you from developing periodontal disease.

If you are concerned about tartar forming on your teeth, call our Evanston dental office to set up an appointment with one of our dentists. At this appointment, they will be happy to review your oral health and address any concerns you have as well as recommend a hygiene treatment plan and re-care schedule to help you address any problems with plaque and tartar.

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