Plaque and Tartar – What’s the Difference?

We all know that regular brushing of the teeth and flossing can help avoid cavities. But what exactly is the mechanism that causes tooth decay?

Plaque – Bacteria That Causes Cavities and Gum Disease

Tiny food particles and saliva mix in your mouth and form a sticky, colorless material called plaque. Unless brushed away, plaque builds up on your teeth and along the gum line. Plaque contains bacteria that love food and drink and use them to create acids. These acids begin to break down the tooth enamel and ultimately can result in tooth decay.

Also, because plaque forms along the gum line too, exposure to this acidic substance can cause gingivitis, the first stage of gum disease.

Plaque Hardens Into Tartar

If not consistently brushed off, plaque can eventually harden or calcify on your teeth at and underneath the gum line, irritating gum tissues. Tartar gives plaque the perfect surface to grow on, exacerbating dental decay and gum disease.

Tartar cannot be removed by brushing or flossing! Only a dentist or dental hygienist can remove tartar in a process called “scaling” or “deep cleaning.”

What To Watch For

Everyone has plaque on their teeth because of the natural processes in your mouth. But with careful brushings twice a day and daily flossing, the plaque will be removed before doing any harm.

Tartar, however, is a mineral build-up that is visible above the gum line. Watch for a brown or yellow color to teeth or gums.Unlike see-through plaque, tartar can be seen forming along the base of the teeth. Because it is porous, tartar easily absorbs stains from coffee, tea or tobacco products.

The best way to detect a tartar build-up is to come in and see us! We will thoroughly examine your teeth, gums and mouth, discuss our findings with you and establish an effective treatment plan.

Let Us Know If You Have Questions on Any Aspect of Oral Health Care

Dr. Lorraine Burio of Candlewood Dental Care has been treating and educating patients for over twenty-five years. Our office serves the New Fairfield, New Milford, Danbury, and Sherman areas of CT and Pawling, Patterson and Putnam Lake of New York. You can call us at 203-746-1200 or make an appointment here.