Understanding The Difference Between Plaque and Tartar

older-womanYou know that plaque and tartar are bad for your teeth, but they aren’t quite the same thing. Find out more about the difference between plaque and tartar and why you need to keep both off of your teeth.

Plaque

Plaque is a clear, sticky, film of bacteria that continuously forms in your mouth and coats your teeth and gums. It can contribute to gingivitis, cavities, and other oral health problems. In some cases it can aid the production of acid in your mouth and damage your enamel, which leaves you even more vulnerable to dental problems.

Fortunately, plaque is relatively easy to remove—you just need to brush your teeth and rinse out your mouth. Although it is easy to remove, new plaque is constantly developing in your mouth—this is why it is important to brush before going to bed, when you wake up in the morning, and especially after each meal. Brush for at least two minutes using a soft bristled toothbrush. You’ll also need to floss each day to keep the spaces between your teeth clean and prevent bacteria from getting into your gums.

Tartar

Tartar is related to plaque, but it isn’t the same thing. If plaque is not cleaned out of your mouth like it should be, it mixes with minerals in your saliva and hardens into tartar. Tartar is hard, crusty, and yellowish. Like plaque, it can get all over your teeth and into the gum line, but it is often most prominent at the base of the teeth right by the gums. Tartar traps bacteria in your mouth and comes with the same negative side effects as plaque—tartar can lead to tooth decay, gum disease, cavities, and more.

Because tartar is so much harder than plaque, it cannot be removed by brushing or flossing—not even if you use an electric toothbrush or stiffer bristles. If tartar forms on your teeth, your only option is to have it cleaned off at the dentist’s office. Your dentist will have tools that are capable of scraping the tartar off of your teeth and getting them clean.

While dental cleanings are essential if you have tartar, it is smart to schedule routine cleanings as a preventative measure—even if you clean your teeth well at home, your dentist can do a better job at the office. Contact Peters Dental Associates to schedule your next cleaning.

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