You may be aware of the role plaque and tartar buildup play when it comes to increasing your risk for cavities and tooth decay.
Without regular tooth brushing and flossing, plaque and tartar can wear away your tooth’s enamel, causing a cavity to develop. Plaque and tartar buildup can also increase your risk for gum disease. Learn more about each and what you can do to keep both under control.
What Is Plaque?
Plaque is a clear film that clings to the surface of the teeth. It builds up when you eat foods that contain a lot of carbohydrates, such as sweets and candy, starchy snacks, and sodas. Bacteria that live in the plaque thrive on those sugary and starchy foods and produce acids as they consume the sugars. The acids cause your teeth’s enamel to wear away, playing a big part in the development of tooth decay.
How Do You Remove It?
Practicing a good oral hygiene routine at home allows you to remove plaque in a timely manner, reducing your risk for tooth decay and other mouth problems. Plaque is pretty easy to remove by brushing your teeth twice a day and by flossing daily, to get any plaque that might build up between the teeth. Regular cleanings performed by a dentist can also help you keep plaque under control.
Along with removing any plaque that builds up, you might consider ways to reduce the amount of plaque that forms on your teeth. One way to do so is to limit the amount of sugary foods you eat. If you regularly eat a lot of candy, baked goods, and starchy snacks such as chips and pretzels, try to cut back as much as you can. If you drink a lot of sugary soda, try switching to water or seltzer water, which doesn’t contain sugar.
What Is Tartar?
When you don’t remove plaque quickly enough, the sticky film hardens into a coating known as tartar or dental calculus. Tartar buildup on the teeth creates a more hospitable environment for plaque to grow, since its surface is stickier than the surface of a tooth’s enamel. Unlike plaque, which is clear and can only be seen under a special light or when special dye tablets are chewed, tartar stains easily and is visible on the teeth.
How Can You Remove It?
While plaque can be easily removed by brushing and flossing, only a dental or hygienist can remove tartar from the tooth’s surface. Usually, a dentist will perform scaling, or a deep cleaning of the teeth to scrape away any tartar that has built up.
Prevention is even more important when it comes to tartar buildup. The best way to prevent it is to keep your mouth as clean as possible by brushing daily to remove plaque and by seeing your dentist regularly. Tartar can form quickly, even overnight, so it’s important not to skip even a single tooth brushing.
What’s the Connection Between Plaque, Tartar and Gum Disease?
Left on the teeth, plaque and tartar increase a person’s risk for developing gum disease. The tartar that develops above the gums can cause irritation, thanks to an increased population of bacteria and can lead to gingivitis, the earliest and mildest form of the disease. Gingivitis can be easily treated with a thorough dental cleaning and by adopting a good oral hygiene habit at home.
But, if gingivitis isn’t treated, and the tartar is allowed to build up, a person’s condition can progress to a more severe form periodontal disease. The buildup of tartar can cause pockets to form in the gums, giving bacteria a place to hide out and collect. A person’s body will try to fight off the bacteria in the gums, which can actually lead to a breakdown of bone and gum tissue. At that stage, a person will usually need much more than a deep cleaning to repair the damage done to the gums and teeth.
Certain factors that increase your risk for gum disease also increase the likelihood that you will have tartar buildup on your teeth. Smoking isn’t only a top risk factor for gum disease. It also makes people more likely to have tartar.
If you are concerned about plaque and tartar buildup and your risk for gum disease, it’s a good idea to speak with a periodontist about your options for treatment. In Miami, Florida, periodontists Dr. John Paul Gallardo and Dr. William Lamas can examine your teeth and gums, recommend appropriate treatment options and let you know what you can do to minimize tartar and plaque. To schedule an appointment with the periodontists, call (305) 447-1447 today.