Plaque Vs. Tartar: What’s the Difference, and Why it Matters

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Plaque is the bacterial film that naturally accumulates on the surface of teeth, especially around the gumline. When this sticky substance is not removed with regular brushing and flossing, it hardens into a buildup known as tartar. Both plaque and tartar can lead to serious dental issues that can be avoided with proper dental hygiene and regular checkups.

How Is Plaque Created?

A close up of a man's smile

After eating, the sugars in foods and beverages combine with saliva to create bacteria, a process that occurs within four to 12 hours. That’s why it’s so important to brush and floss after every meal. When plaque is left on the teeth, the bacteria attack the tissue and bone, damaging tooth enamel and leading to cavities and gum disease.

How Does Tartar Affect the Teeth?

When plaque is allowed to build up, the deposits enlarge and begin to calcify into tartar. This hardened substance traps stains, discoloring the teeth and causing medical issues, such as gingivitis and gum disease, as well as cosmetic concerns. Tartar appears as a yellow to brown deposit, while plaque is pale yellow or colorless.

Can Plaque and Tartar Buildup Be Prevented?

Fortunately, the dental problems caused by plaque and tartar can be prevented with a few simple steps:

  • Having a dental cleaning every six months
  • Brushing with fluoride toothpaste that fights plaque-causing bacteria
  • Flossing at least once a day
  • Using an electric toothbrush for optimal cleaning and replacing it every three months
  • Rinsing with a mouthwash that protects against plaque buildup and gum disease
  • Avoiding sugary foods and drinks and eating a nutritious, well-balanced diet

Scheduling a routine dental check-up and cleaning is essential to prevent plaque and tartar buildup. Make an appointment with Guri S. Dhaliwal DMD to combat plaque and tartar issues and to receive a comfortable dental experience with spa-like amenities. Fill out our online patient request form to schedule a check-up, cleaning, or other dental services.

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