Plaque contains bacteria that cause cavities and gum disease. As plaque forms and is not removed by proper brushing and flossing, it can harden into tartar. Tartar is sometimes called calculus which is calcified plaque that attaches to the enamel on your teeth. It can also buildup below the gum line. We recently had a patient who all of a sudden started experiencing a large buildup of tarter on the backside of her bottom front teeth. She was curious how this happened, so we thought we’d do a quick article explaining how and why tartar forms.
How do you get tartar?
We all have bacteria in our mouth even if we take great care of our teeth. The bacteria mixes with proteins and food byproducts and forms a sticky film called dental plaque. The plaque coats your teeth, gets under your gum line, and sticks to fillings and other dental work. Plaque carries bacteria that can damage your tooth enamel and lead to cavities. If you remove the plaque regularly, you can prevent permanent gum disease and tooth decay. Some studies link the bacteria in gum disease to heart disease and other health problems. Suffice it to say that it’s important to practice healthy dental habits on a regular basis to prevent dental plaque buildup.
Is tartar harmful?
Bigger problems arise if plaque stays on your teeth and hardens into tartar. Tartar forms below and above the gum line. It is rough and porous and can lead to receding gums and gum disease. Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD said it best on a ShareCare.com answer to the question, “What are the complications of plaque and tartar?“. Dr. Oz stated, “If the plaque and tartar aren’t removed, the bacteria set up camp in the periodontal area between teeth and at the gum line. At first, the calcification and colonization causes mild gingivitis, swelling and bleeding of gums. But as more bacteria take hold in plaque- and tartar-laden gums, gingivitis can advance to full-blown periodontist. Eventually the pus-filled, inflamed tissue pulls away from the tooth, bone is compromised and exposed, and the tooth can no longer stay anchored in the mouth.” To see all of the answers, click here for the Healthy Oral Hygiene Survey.
Tips to prevent tartar
- Brush regularly, twice a day for 2 minutes a time. A 30-second scrub twice a day won’t remove plaque or prevent tartar. Use a brush with soft bristles that is small enough to fit into your mouth. Include all hard-to-reach surfaces behind your teeth and on your rear molars.
- Electronic toothbrushes may get rid of plaque better than manual models according to studies. No matter which type of toothbrush you use, be sure it has the American Dental Association (ADA) seal of approval. These have undergone rigorous quality control and safety tests.
- Choose a tartar-control toothpaste with fluoride. The fluoride will help repair tooth enamel damage. Some products have a substance called triclosan. Triclosan fights the bacteria in plaque.
- Floss, floss, and floss again. No matter how good you are with a toothbrush, dental floss is the only way to remove plaque between your teeth.
- Rinse daily. Use an antiseptic mouthwash daily to help kill bacteria that cause plaque.
- Eat a healthy diet. The bacteria in your mouth thrive on foods that are starchy or sugary and release harmful acids. Every time you eat, you also feed the bacteria in your mouth so cut down on sugars and starches in your diet. Brush and drink plenty of water during and after meals.
- Don’t use tobacco. Studies show that people who smoke cigarettes or use tobacco products are more likely to experience tartar buildup.
Tartar must be removed with special tools in the dentist’s office. Call Brit Phillips DDS Fort Worth if you are experiencing tartar or plaque buildup on your teeth.