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Tooth Plaque vs. Tartar: What’s the difference?

Home > Tooth Plaque vs. Tartar: What’s the difference?
The difference between plaque and tartar

Have you ever wondered what tartar and plaque are and if there’s a difference between them? Both tartar and plaque buildup are common dental issues that can result in gum disease and tooth decay. Arming yourself with the facts about these dental problems can help you be more thoughtful about your oral hygiene.


In this post, we’ll discuss what dental plaque and tartar are and the difference between them. We’ll also discuss how to prevent their build and how Meramec Family Dentistry’s cleaning and teeth whitening treatment can help.


What is tooth plaque?


Tooth plaque, also known as dental biofilm, microbial plaque, and dental plaque, is a soft, sticky film that accumulates on your teeth. It is the sticky, pale yellow, or colorless biofilm deposit you see on your teeth or between your gums.


Plaque contains millions of bacteria that naturally build up in the mouth, especially on the teeth, gum line, and tongue, within 4 to 12 hours after brushing. These bacteria feed on the food and drinks you eat and produce acids that can damage your gums or attack your tooth enamel. If plaque is not removed, it can lead to gum disease, tooth decay, and tartar buildup.


What is tartar?


Tartar, also known as dental calculus, is a hard, crusty deposit that can coat teeth exterior, trap stains and lead to tooth discoloration. It is formed when plaque on tooth surfaces reacts with minerals in the saliva and calcifies (hardens) on the teeth. That’s why it’s often referred to as calcified plaque.


Tartar may be brown, tan, or yellow, feel rough to the touch, and may grow to cover larger areas of the teeth when not removed. If left untreated, it can lead to oral issues like periodontal disease, receding gums, tooth loss, bone loss, bad breath, gingivitis, cavities, and irritated gums.


What are the key differences?


Plaque makes the teeth “feel fuzzy” to the tongue since it is a soft, slimy film of bacteria that forms on the teeth. It can be removed by brushing and is most noticeable when teeth are not brushed.


Tartar, on the other hand, makes it feel rough to the touch and cannot be removed by brushing. It is hard and usually has a darker color, and can only be safely removed by a dental professional.


Causes of tooth plaque and tartar


When fluids, food, and saliva combine in your mouth, they create an environment that allows bacteria to grow and produce deposits that accumulate on your gums and teeth. Food high in carbohydrates or sugars, such as starches and sucrose found in candy, cakes, sweets, fruits, and soft drinks contribute to plaque biofilm formation and growth.


Over time, if you don’t remove plaque regularly, it turns into tartar by trapping calcium and other minerals from your saliva and calcifying within 24 to 72 hours. If not removed, it can trap plaque, lead to more tartar development, and increase the risk of gum disease.


How to prevent tooth plaque and tartar


The key to preventing tooth plaque and tartar buildup lies in adhering to a regular oral hygiene routine. Follow the tips below to avoid plaque and tartar buildup on your teeth.


Prevention tips


Brush your teeth at least twice daily with tartar-control fluoride toothpaste. This will help fight bacteria that develop in your mouth to prevent plaque formation and tartar buildup.


Visit your dentist regularly (at least every six months) for a thorough examination and cleanings. People who visit their dentist regularly are less likely to develop plaque, tartar, and other related dental issues.


Floss regularly (at least once daily) to remove plaque and any leftover food particles between your teeth.


Eat healthily and avoid high-stress lifestyles. Avoid sugary foods and beverages—brush after snacking and eat well-balanced meals.


Avoid smoking and tobacco products to lower your risk of increased plaque and tartar.


Use a quality electric toothbrush. Don’t forget to replace the head every 3 – 4 months or as soon as the bristles look worn.


Teeth whitening treatment removes plaque and tartar


Since plaque and tartar can stain your teeth, spoil your everlasting smile, and lead to other dental issues, you need to remove them. Unfortunately, while you can remove plaque by simply brushing your teeth, you cannot remove tartar with the same approach. However, the good news is: you can remove plaque and tartar and restore your white and beautiful smile with teeth whitening and cleaning treatment.


Restore your beautiful smile; schedule an appointment now!


Plaque and tartar are detrimental to your smile, dental health, and overall well-being and should be removed asap!


If you need to remove tartar or require a teeth whitening treatment in Arnold, MO, Meramec Family Dentistry is your go-to dental practice. We also offer several treatment options and cosmetic dental services to tackle any dental issue and give you the smile of your dreams! Contact us today, and we’ll help you achieve the beautiful smile you deserve.

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