The Difference Between Plaque And Tartar, And How To Prevent Both

Posted on: 4 March 2015

Dentists often talk about both plaque and tartar, and it is a common misconception that they both mean the same thing. However, both are very different and affect your teeth in different ways. Understanding the differences between plaque and tartar is essential if you hope to prevent their spread and ensure good oral health.

What Is Plaque?

Plaque is a yellow or off white substance that forms on your teeth after eating foods. It is made up of various bacteria, sugars, and food particles. Plaque can cause damage to your teeth because it is naturally acidic, which means that it will eat away at the enamel of your teeth, exposing the more sensitive layers underneath. Plaque can also irritate your gums, inflaming them and making them more likely to start bleeding.

How Do I Prevent Plaque?

Plaque is a part of your everyday life. By simply eating, you will develop plaque on your teeth. However, it can be removed fairly easily as long as you maintain a regular oral hygiene routine. Brush twice a day, ensuring that you are brushing for two minutes each time, and use floss or a water pick to remove food residue and plaque from your gums and between your teeth, where it can do the most damage. Avoiding sugary foods and drinks can also reduce the amount of plaque that builds up in your mouth.

What Is Tartar?

Tartar is plaque that has been allowed to sit on your teeth for an extended period of time, and has hardened to the point where you cannot remove it by brushing anymore. Because it is harder to remove, tartar can do far more damage to your teeth. It is also easily stained, unlike plaque, which means that if you drink coffee or smoke, it is likely you will tint your teeth a yellow or brown.

How Do I Prevent Tartar?

Preventing tartar is as simple as keeping plaque from sitting on your teeth for an extended period of time. Special care should be taken around the gums and between your teeth, as this is the hardest place to remove plaque from, making it the most likely spot for tartar to develop. Once tartar has formed on your teeth, you will have to go in to your dentist to have it cleaned off. A dentist will use a specialized scraping tool that will remove the tartar from your teeth, which can be a painful and drawn out process. 

For more information, contact a clinic like Family & Cosmetic Dentistry.