You’ve seen the commercials, you’ve heard your dental professionals talk about it, but did you know there is a difference between dental tartar and dental plaque? Yes, there is a difference, and a pretty big difference.
First of all, most plaque/tartar levels vary from patient to patient. Why? There are several explanations for these variances such as diet, beverages, home care, proper dental frequency diagnosis and commitment to professional dental cleanings. Most people are good about some of these items and some are not, regardless at the end of the day, it’s all about maintenance! But really, what is the difference plaque and tartar? Let’s start off with an explanation of both.
What is plaque?
Tartar is the white, sticky, filmy bacteria that forms on your teeth almost immediately after eating food. Food and beverage products with high concentrations of simple carbohydrates, such as white sugars, white flours, high fructose corn syrups etc.. breakdown into sugars which create a bacteria thus turning into an acid that destroys the teeth’s enamel which the body is incapable of repairing. By brushing and flossing this sticky filmy bacterium off the teeth, gums and in between the teeth, potential decay is decreased significantly.
What is tartar/calculus?
Tartar, a.k.a. calculus is the accumulation of the white sticky filmy tartar that hardens on your teeth because of poor home care and lack of removal. Tartar can form in areas that are inaccessible with your toothbrush; by avoiding this, flossing is encouraged. When calculus forms on the hard tissues or teeth, it begins to recess the supporting gum tissues around the tooth which then give way to the disintegration of the bone as well. Why does this matter? It matters because as bone disintegrates so does the integrity of the tooth; teeth can become mobile and more susceptible to periodontal involvement. Periodontal involvement of the teeth can create a slurry of long term issues for your teeth and overall oral health.
What can I do to avoid this?
By daily brushing and flossing, and removing plaque before it hardens into tartar is Step 1. Also, coming in to have your teeth cleaned 2 x’s a year or for your designated frequency is Step 2. We pre-appoint our patients for their dental cleanings because it creates continuity, helps our patients stay on task with their frequency and committed to their oral health. By keeping up with your regular cleanings, your cleanings will be smoother and more effective. We also educate our patients on how to create healthy eating habits when ti comes to eating. By avoiding simple carbohydrates, food and beverages with a lot of sugar, you can create less acidic create, hence creating less plaque and healthier mouth!
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