Tartar is a calcified buildup of bacteria that forms along your gum line. Tartar is the cause of many oral health problems, such as weakened enamel, cavities, decay, and gum disease.
Although it’s a common oral health problem, tartar is also an easy one to avoid. In the sections below, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about tartar, including the best oral hygiene routine to prevent tartar altogether.
What’s the difference between plaque and tartar?
As saliva, food, and liquids combine in your mouth, they create a thin, sticky film of bacteria called plaque. Plaque can form in as little as four hours and contains acid-forming bacteria, which isn’t good for your teeth. The acid produced by bacteria in plaque will slowly wear away at your enamel. This process weakens your teeth and makes it easier for discoloration, staining, and decay to set in.
Even if you have the best at-home oral hygiene routine, plaque will still form throughout the day. The good news is that brushing your teeth in the morning and the evening gets rid of plaque buildup before it has a chance to cause significant damage.
Plaque slowly becomes tartar: a hard, calcified deposit of bacteria that settles into the crevices between your teeth and gum line. Not only does tartar weaken enamel and make it easier for cavities to form, but it also leads to gingivitis, gum disease, receding gums, and even jawbone damage.
How do you remove tartar?
Tartar is hard and porous, and once it sets in, it can be difficult to remove. Unlike plaque, tartar can only be removed by a dentist during a professional cleaning.
Two types of tartar could form in your mouth: supragingival and subgingival. Supragingival tartar has a yellowish tint and is visible above your gum line. During a professional cleaning, your dentist will gently scrape off supragingival tartar to remove bacteria from your gum line.
Subgingival tartar is hidden below your gum line. Your dentist will use an explorer, a periodontal probe, or curette to inspect for hidden subgingival tartar. If they find subgingival tartar, you may need to undergo scaling and root planing (deep cleaning of your tooth from the root up), or periodontal surgery to remove the hardened bacteria.
How can I prevent tartar?
The best way to prevent tartar from forming is to take good care of your teeth each day. Your at-home dental hygiene routine can ensure that plaque is removed as soon as possible, keeping tartar at bay and supporting healthier gums and teeth. Here are some tips to preventing tartar:
- Brush twice each day, and set a timer to make sure you are brushing for two minutes per session.
- Consider upgrading to an electric toothbrush; many dental experts report electric toothbrushes are much more efficient at plaque removal.
- Don’t skip flossing! Flossing will ensure that you are removing plaque from the stubborn cracks and crevices that tartar settles into.
- Use a mouthwash every day to wash away harmful bacteria.
- Sip on water throughout the day to promote better saliva production and minimize enamel-erosion due to acidic foods and beverages.
Avoiding tartar is as easy as a well-rounded routine of brushing, flossing, and rinsing. And of course, keeping to a regular schedule of dental cleanings is essential to ensuring that your teeth and gums are as healthy as possible.
Are you worried about tartar building up along your gum line? Call Steger Smiles today to make an appointment for your next cleaning!