Live Oak Dental Group

What is the Difference Between Plaque and Tartar?

We use many different terms in the dental field, some of which are technical and primarily used for our record keeping. But there are many terms that we want our patients to know and understand. Two such terms, which are often confused for each other, are the terms “plaque” and “tartar.” In order for us – and you – to care for your teeth, it is helpful to have a strong understanding of these two terms and their similarities and differences.

What is Plaque?

The term “Plaque” refers to a film of bacteria, sugar, starch, and saliva that sticks to and in between teeth. Your diet can affect the amount of plaque you create (diets low in sugar and other carbohydrates are less likely to develop plaque than other diets), but almost all modern diets are likely to develop this sticky substance.

Plaque itself causes several dental problems:

  • Tooth Discoloration.
  • Bad Breath.
  • Gum Redness.

That is why it is so important to get rid of plaque when it builds on your teeth.

Brushing and Flossing – The Best Way to Remove Plaque

Plaque is created every day. Every time you eat, all throughout the day and night, small and large amounts of plaque are formed around your teeth and gums. It also does not go away on its own.

Plaque is one of the main reasons we brush our teeth at night and in the morning, and try our best to floss at least once a day. The only way to remove plaque is manually, through the act of brushing.

If you brush too quickly or miss certain parts of your mouth, you may not be able to remove all the plaque that sticks on your teeth. After about 24 hours on your teeth, that plaque starts to harden, and when it hardens, it becomes “tartar.”

What is Tartar?

Tartar is hardened plaque. Once plaque becomes tartar, it is no longer easy to brush away. Brushing and flossing are typically not enough, and the more the tartar builds up on your teeth the more it becomes impossible to remove without help from a dentist.

Tartar is also responsible for many of the dental problems that we have as we get older. In the near term, tartar can lead to:

  • Swollen Gums
  • Bleeding
  • White Spots

Tartar also places bacteria directly on the teeth, which can eventually lead to cavities and other gum diseases.

Removing Plaque and Tartar – Live Oak Dental Group

Plaque removal is something you can do at home, on your own. Spending 2 minutes, twice a day, brushing properly in the front and back of your teeth – along with flossing – can help you get rid of plaque in your mouth. You can also try your best to remove sugars and carbohydrates from your diet, which will help reduce the amount of plaque you create. But tartar is something that needs to be removed at the office. At Live Oak Dental Group in Porterville, our dentists are ready to support your dental health and help you eliminate tartar buildup and protect your teeth and gums from disease. Call today for an appointment. 559-781-0223