The Ultimate Showdown: Plaque vs. Tartar

There are so many different things we talk about when it comes to oral health, that sometimes we don’t realize when our patients might not fully understand what each one means.

We thought we’d take a moment to provide an educational piece on the difference between plaque and tartar, including the causes for each and how to treat them.

Debra Duffy DDS Calvin and Hobbes checking their teeth

The Plaque Attack

The first thing to understand about plaque is what it is. Plaque is a colorless, sticky substance that builds up along the gum line around the teeth and is made up of food particles and saliva.

Plaque is always with us, and in fact, after the first 10 hours of birth, a newborn starts to develop the bacteria that causes plaque.

Plaque is the culprit for causing cavities and gum disease, although some of the bacteria in plaque can be responsible for periodontal disease and tooth decay. The longer it’s in your mouth, the more trouble it can cause.

Plaque feeds off of sugars (including those found in fruit and milk), breads, pastas, crackers, and any starchy foods and can turn into tartar if it isn’t removed every day.

The good news is that plaque forms within eight hours and can be easily removed by daily brushing twice a day, flossing regularly, and rinsing your mouth with water after every meal.

Tartar Martyr

Tartar is a little easier to identify since it is yellow or brownish yellow, hard, porous, and crusty. It is made of hardened or calcified plaque material that hasn’t been removed.

Tartar makes it more difficult to remove plaque since it bonds to the teeth and must be removed by a dental professional. If the tartar has formed below the gum line, it may require surgery to remove.

It can also cause cavities, gum disease, and tooth loss – and if it isn’t removed, it will continue to grow and calcify!

The best way to prevent plaque and tartar buildup is through brushing, flossing, and rinsing your mouth on a regular basis. If you have questions, contact us to find out more!

A Healthy Mouth is a Happy Mouth!

~Dr. Duffy

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