The terms plaque and tartar are often used interchangeably. However, there are a few key differences. It’s a difference that not only affects your teeth but your overall health.
It All Starts With… Eating
Plaque and tartar are issues because most of us enjoy eating. Sometimes three times a day. Or more often.
Eating begins the digestion process. As we chew, saliva mixes with the crushed food to start breaking it down so our body can absorb its nutrients. This is the perfect environment for bacteria to grow. In fact, at this very moment you have over 500 different species waiting for their (your) next meal.
One way to put an end to the creation of plaque and tartar is to stop eating. We don’t recommend that. Instead, there are some simple strategies you can deploy to at least slow the process.
Which Produces Plaque
Plaque is a clear sticky residue that is constantly forming on your teeth throughout the day and night. Plaque begins to develop on our teeth within hours after eating. Food particles, bacteria and saliva all combine to form this colorless film. It’s what makes your teeth feel “dirty” between brushings or upon waking in the morning.
The bacteria in your mouth are having a field day. The result is a variety of acids, which attack your teeth and gums. This is the same bacteria, which if left unchecked, produce gingivitis and cavities.
The key purpose of brushing and flossing is to consistently interrupt this bacterial growth. If it isn’t, it can harden into tartar.
When plaque accumulates it can mineralize, causing it to harden within 24 to 72 hours, turning into a substance called tartar or calculus. Tartar tends to bond quite strongly to tooth enamel.
The most prevalent areas where this occurs are adjacent to salivary glands, such as the lower front teeth and the upper molars next to the cheeks.
It’s tough stuff. This hard, crusty material can trap stains, turning yellow or brown. As we age we become more prone to tartar build up. You also have a greater risk of developing tartar if you suffer from dry mouth, have crowded teeth or smoke. About two-thirds of all adults have tartar build up on their teeth.
The inflammation from the bacteria not only becomes gum disease, it can produce an inflammatory effect throughout your body and cardiovascular system.
The best way to fight tartar is to constantly reduce the formation of plaque. Which you can do at home. Once it becomes tartar, you’ll need the help of a dental professional.
All of us experience plaque buildup, regardless of how well we care for our teeth and gums. Even dentists and hygienists. That’s why it’s so important to brush and floss regularly and see us for professional cleanings.