Back to the Basics: Plaque vs. Tartar


The terms Plaque and Tartar are very common; we see them on toothpaste boxes, we hear them on mouthwash commercials and we talk about them with our dentists, but do we really know what they are? Plaque and tartar can both build up on your teeth, but do you know the difference between the two?

Plaque Facts

Plaque is a clear, sticky substance containing millions of bacteria that build up naturally to form a thin coating over the teeth and up under the gum line. When plaque mixes with the sugars from the food and drinks that we consume it releases acids that break down tooth enamel causing the tooth to decay. These acids also work their way under the gum line and cause gum disease.

Plaque can be removed easily enough by brushing and flossing regularly. Plaque that is left in the mouth will accumulate and harden over time. This hardened plaque is called tartar.

Tartar Truths

When plaque is left on the teeth it reacts with the minerals in our saliva, and the sugars in our food & drink, to form tartar. Tartar is a hard, porous buildup that catches stains which leads to tooth discoloration. Tartar is hard and therefore must be removed with a dentist’s tools and trained hands.

If tartar is not removed it can lead to tooth discoloration, receding gums and gum disease. It’s easily avoidable by implementing a good oral health care routine of brushing (twice) and flossing (once) every day. Tongue scraping and rinsing with an antiseptic mouthwash will also help kill the bacteria that lead to plaque and tartar.

Make sure to visit your dentist every 6 months to have your teeth checked out and professionally cleaned. Visit our website for more information or to schedule an appointment today.

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