Plaque and Tartar

What is dental plaque and tartar on teeth?


Two important dental hygiene issues are plaque and tartar control. Patients often confuse plaque and tartar and how they’re related to each other. Read on to learn how to differentiate them and tailor your dental hygiene routine to help control them.

What is plaque?

Plaque is a sticky, colourless deposit of bacteria that is constantly forming on the tooth surface. Saliva, food, and fluids combine to produce these deposits that collect on teeth and where teeth and gums meet.

The build-up of plaque can trap stains on the teeth, and it is also the primary factor in gum disease. Fighting plaque is a life-long part of good dental hygiene. Plaque can also lead to the development of cavities, which further weaken your teeth.

Plaque can begin forming on teeth four to 12 hours after brushing, which is why it is so important to brush at least twice a day and floss daily. Brushing teeth, although necessary, is not enough. Make sure to floss every day in order to get those hard-to-reach places between teeth to help prevent the build-up of plaque.

What is tartar on teeth?

Are you wondering what tartar is? Tartar is a deposit that forms when plaque hardens on the tooth. Individuals vary greatly in their susceptibility to tartar build-up.

For many, these deposits build up faster with age. Tartar is easily noticeable because of its yellow or brown colour on teeth.

What causes tartar build-up on teeth

When plaque accumulates and is not removed from teeth, it can harden and turn into tartar. Because tartar build-up on teeth bonds strongly to enamel, it can only be removed by a dental professional.

Help prevent tartar build-up

Since you already know what tartar is, it is time for some information about tartar removal. While tartar can only be removed by a dental professional, you can avoid tartar build-up by removing plaque. To help prevent plaque, be sure to brush your teeth at least twice daily, preferably with a tartar-control fluoride toothpaste, and floss daily. And visit your dental office regularly for oral exams and cleanings.

Dental hygiene for prevention

Plaque and tartar do not affect everyone in the same way; individuals vary greatly in their susceptibility and resistance. For many of us, these deposits build up faster as we age, meaning the older you get, the more closely you have to monitor your dental hygiene routine. There are, however, several ways in which you can alter your dental hygiene practices to help protect your teeth from the build-up of plaque and tartar.

  • Having your teeth cleaned professionally every six months, or more frequently as recommended by your dentist or hygienist

  • Brushing with a toothpaste that contains pyrophosphate

  • Brushing with a toothpaste that contains sodium hexametaphosphate, a pyrophosphate specially formulated to not only inhibit calculus, but also loosen and break the bonds of extrinsic stains for powerful whitening and a protective barrier to prevent future stains