Understanding Plaque and Tartar


Today’s post is about two similar and related oral health issues that are bad news for your teeth and gums; plaque and tartar. Understanding what they are comprised of, how they come about as well as how to actively treat them will go a long way in keeping your smile in tip top shape.




Dental plaque is a biofilm (mass of bacterial microorganisms that stick together at the cellular level) that forms on teeth and the gum line. It is an unattractive pale yellow in colour and constantly forms on our teeth as a direct result of the foods we eat. There are a near unfathomable 25,000 species of bacteria that exist in the human mouth that feed on the sugars within these foods, 1,000 of which exist plaque. As our teeth are unable to shed their outside layer, it makes them a prime target for the film that is plaque to form and stick around. Plaque that remains on the gums can irritate the tissues leading to swelling, gingivitis and eventually gum disease.


The way to prevent plaque from taking up permanent residence in your mouth is through regular brushing, flossing and mouthwash. Preventative measures include regularly scheduled dental cleanings with your dental hygienist and a healthy diet. Failure to do these things over time allows plaque to build up and this can become a problem for you over time; tartar.




Plaque that has been allowed to build up over a period of time eventually hardens into a more serious issue called tartar or calculus. Calculus actually creates a much stickier surface for new plaque to adhere to compounding the build up. Tartar that forms below the gumline can create painful inflammation and gum disease.


If that weren’t enough tartar and it’s harder surface area is an easier canvas for stains. Coffee drinkers and smokers would see a much darker yellow or brown colour over time creating sharp contrast with the surrounding teeth. It is quite easy to spot and if you think you may have a tartar or plaque problem, you should schedule an appointment and cleaning with your dentist. Tartar can only be removed by scaling with specialized instruments by your hygienist or dentist.


Sources: Colgate

Photo: UK Daily Mail

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