Plaque or Tartar: Understanding the Difference
How Can You Tell if It’s Plaque or Tartar?
Plaque and tartar are common dental issues that can impact the health of your teeth and gums. While they are related, there are important differences between the two.
Plaque is a sticky film that forms on your teeth when bacteria in your mouth combine with food particles and saliva. It is usually colorless or pale yellow and can build up on the surfaces of your teeth and along the gumline. If left untreated, plaque can lead to tooth decay and gum disease.
Tartar, on the other hand, is hardened plaque that has mineralized over time. It forms when plaque is not effectively removed through regular brushing and flossing, so instead of thinking of plaque or tarter, think plaque will become tartar. Tartar is typically yellow or brown in color and has a rough texture. Unlike plaque, tartar cannot be removed by brushing alone and requires professional dental cleaning.
To determine whether it’s plaque or tartar, you can try running your tongue along your teeth. If you feel a rough, grainy substance, it’s likely tartar. Conversely, plaque is usually smooth and can be brushed away with proper oral hygiene practices.
Can I Scrape Plaque or Tartar Off My Teeth?
While it is important to remove plaque regularly to maintain good oral health, it is not recommended to scrape plaque off your teeth yourself. Using sharp or improper tools to scrape your teeth can cause damage to your enamel and gums, leading to sensitivity and other oral health issues.
The best way to remove plaque is by practicing effective oral hygiene. Brush your teeth at least twice daily using a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste. Additionally, floss daily to remove plaque and food particles between your teeth and the gumline. Regular dental check-ups and professional cleanings are crucial in removing plaque and tartar buildup.
Is Tartar Worse Than Plaque?
Tartar is more concerning than plaque due to its hardened nature. Once plaque has turned into tartar, removing it becomes much more difficult. Tartar provides an ideal environment for bacteria to thrive, increasing the risk of gum disease and tooth decay. Stopping plaque or tartar is about doing all the preventative measures we have learned.
If left untreated, tartar can lead to more serious oral health problems, such as periodontitis, which can cause gum recession and tooth loss. Regular dental cleanings are necessary to remove tartar and prevent its negative effects on oral health.
How Do You Break Plaque Off Your Teeth?
To break plaque off your teeth, follow these essential oral hygiene practices:
- Brush your teeth thoroughly for two minutes at least twice daily using a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste. Be sure to reach all surfaces of your teeth, including the gumline.
- Floss daily to remove plaque and food debris between your teeth and the gumline. Use gentle, back-and-forth motions to clean each tooth.
- Rinse your mouth with an antimicrobial mouthwash to help kill bacteria and reduce plaque formation.
- Schedule regular dental check-ups and professional cleanings. A dentist or dental hygienist can effectively remove any plaque or tartar buildup that cannot be eliminated through regular brushing and flossing.
At Springville Dentistry, we understand the challenges of plaque, tartar, or both. Our team of experienced dental professionals is dedicated to returning your teeth to excellent shape and ensuring your long-term oral health. Contact us today to schedule an appointment, and let us help you achieve a healthy, beautiful smile.
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