WE OFTEN GET THE QUESTION from our patients, “What’s the difference between plaque and tartar?” Many people think they are the same thing. There is an important difference between the two, however, and it can help explain just why a daily oral hygiene routine is so crucial, as well as twice-yearly visits to your dentist.
Your teeth are tough. Covered by enamel, the hardest substance in your body, your teeth can handle a lot of wear and tear. But if you allow plaque to build up and harden, you may be at risk of developing tartar.
Tartar can wreak havoc on your dental health and lead to gum disease. That’s why it’s important to know the difference between plaque and tartar, how to prevent both, and what to do if you notice buildup on your teeth.
Dental plaque is something we all have on our teeth. This soft, sticky film builds up on your teeth after bacteria mixes with saliva and food.
Plaque is something we all have on our teeth and, left unchecked, can lead to cavities and tooth loss. According to the American Dental Association, plaque is an invisible bacteria-filled film that covers each tooth in your mouth. The bacteria springs into action and creates acid every time that you eat something that contains sugar. The acid attacks the enamel on your vulnerable teeth and, over time, leads to disaster in your mouth.
To prevent plaque buildup, it’s important to:
- Brush a minimum of two times a day
- Daily flossing
- Drink water
- Minimize sugar and sticky foods in your diet
- Change your toothbrush every few months
- Regular visits to the dentist
Tartar, also known as dental calculus, is the buildup of plaque that has not been removed. It is quite different to plaque in appearance and is often considered unsightly. Tartar is a hard, yellow or brown substance that cannot be easily removed. It develops when minerals in your saliva and plaque left on your teeth react. Tartar can cause tooth discoloration, tooth loss, cavities, gum recession and gum disease. Daily removal of plaque can prevent the development of tartar altogether.
What are the key differences?
Although tartar and plaque can both cause dental health problems, there are some key differences to point out.
The buildup process is different
Plaque builds up on your teeth throughout the day after eating or drinking, especially after you’ve eaten carbohydrates or sugary foods or beverages.
We all deal with plaque. If you adhere to a daily brushing and flossing routine, you can remove the plaque on your teeth before it hardens and turns to tartar.
If plaque is left to accumulate on your teeth, it hardens and becomes tartar.
The appearance is different
Plaque is described as having a fuzzy feeling when you rub your tongue across your teeth. It’s generally colorless, which makes it hard to see.
Tartar may feel rough and have a yellow or brown appearance.
The removal process is different
Plaque can be removed from your teeth with daily brushing and flossing. Tartar on the other hand is removed during a professional teeth cleaning by a dental professional.
Looking for a dentist on Lady’s Island?
If you are looking for a local dentist office that specializes conservative, preventative care, please consider Lowcountry Family Dentistry. We offer complete dental services for the whole family in one convenient location and would love to have you. Call us at (843) 986-0177 or schedule an appointment online.