When talking about oral health care, the words “plaque” and “tartar” often come up. In fact, they’re often used almost interchangeably. However, they are actually different things. Plaque is a tacky and colorless deposit of bacteria on the tooth. Produced from saliva, food particles, and fluids, plaque is always on the teeth. Brushing removes it for several hours but eventually it begins to come back. When plaque remains on the teeth, it causes discoloration and the beginning stages of gum disease.

Tartar is a crusty deposit, unlike the sticky formulation of plaque. While it also causes staining and discoloration, it is harder to remove than with simple brushing and flossing. In fact, tartar that forms over plaque can make it harder for patients to remove the plaque.

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Keeping your teeth free from both plaque and tartar is a lifelong task. There are several ways patients can help prevent plaque from sticking to teeth and tartar from building up, including:

  • Brush and floss. You’ve heard it all your life. Every dental commercial and every visit to the dentist stress the importance of brushing your teeth at least twice a day and flossing at least once. This habit helps to remove plaque and keep the surface of the tooth from becoming weakened or damaged.
  • Choose a toothpaste that includes pyrophosphate, which adheres to the surface of the tooth and makes it challenging for calculus crystals (tartar) to grow.
  • Visit the dentist. Twice a year, patients should visit the dentist. Not only does this provide the dentist with a chance to examine the teeth and identify any potential trouble spots before they develop, patients also receive a professional cleaning which removes the built up tartar that’s on the teeth.

A healthy mouth and a happy smile begins with keeping the teeth clear from both plaque and tartar. Brushing, flossing, and a trusted relationship with your dentist are all critical to ensuring that your smile stays white and that your teeth and gums stay healthy. Dr. Dean Dietrich of Pleasant Dental® in Illinois believes that prevention of dental problems is critical to overall health and wellness. For more information about how plaque and tartar can impact your oral and overall health, call the Pleasant Dental® office today.

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