If you’ve ever run your tongue over your teeth to feel a slimy or fuzzy layer, that’s dental plaque. While this sticky layer can be removed with regular brushing and flossing, it can cause a whole host of problems if it is left untreated.
Not only can it turn into hard-to-remove tartar, but it can lead to chronic bad breath, gum disease, cavities, tooth decay, and more.
What Causes Plaque & Tartar?
Your mouth is a bacterial ecosystem that jumps into gear when you consume food or drinks.
The bacteria, both good and bad, feed on the sugar and starches in food particles which releases an acidic by-product that blankets your teeth.
If the bacterial plaque isn’t removed properly, the minerals in your saliva will get absorbed by it, allowing it to harden into tartar or calculus.
Plaque is sticky, somewhat coarse, and may appear as a pale-yellow lining. Tartar is porous which is what leads to that superficial staining you see that is yellow or brown in color.
Prevention Methods for Plaque & Tartar?
The main thing you should do to prevent plaque and tartar from building up is to practice proper oral hygiene.
- Always brush your teeth twice a day.
- Brush after a meal containing sugar or heavy starches.
- Brush gently for at least two minutes to not harm your enamel.
- Floss once a day, gently rubbing the sides of your teeth.
- Use mouthwash with trace amounts of essential oils like menthol.
- Angle your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle.
- Consider using fluoride-containing toothpaste.
If you are looking for additional ways to prevent buildup, consider the following:
- Use tartar-control toothpaste. Tartar-control toothpaste can cut nearly 35% than regular fluoride toothpaste.
- If you don’t mind baking soda, use toothpaste with it. Baking soda is abrasive which helps remove plaque.
- Drink green tea to reduce the number of bacteria in your mouth.
- Eat fresh fruits and vegetables to boost saliva production. The excess saliva will help wash down and remove bacteria from the surface of your teeth and gums.
- Chew sugar-free gum to increase saliva production.
- Purchase a water flosser to really get into the spaces between your teeth.
How Is Plaque & Tartar Removed?
The only medical treatment for the removal of plaque that has turned into tartar is a dental cleaning process called debridement.
- Dental Scaling: your dental hygienist will use two tools, a dental scaler and a curette to remove plaque and tartar from the teeth and below the gum line. They may also choose to reveal the plaque with a red-staining tablet or with an ultraviolet plaque light, otherwise, they will simply use touch to identify the rough spots.
- Root Planing: if you have a lot of corrosive acidic compounds found on your teeth, your hygienist may choose to smooth out the rough spots on the roots of your teeth. This can help reduce tartar buildup and slow down gum disease.
- Polishing: any soft plaque deposits and superficial stains will be removed during the tooth polishing stage.
With consistent oral hygiene and a healthy diet, you can stop plaque from forming into tartar. If you’re worried about it becoming a problem, book an appointment with your dentist to discuss your oral health and what further measures you can take.
If you’d like to come for a dental visit and/or have any questions, feel free to get in touch today.