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Plaque & Tartar

by Adriana Jaramillo DDS & Carlos A Jaramillo IV

How are plaque and tartar related to each other?

Plaque is a sticky, colorless deposit of bacteria that is constantly forming on teeth. Saliva, food and fluids combine to produce these deposits that collect on teeth and along the gum line.

Tartar, also called calculus, is calcified plaque. It is a crusty deposit that creates a cohesive bond keeping plaque and bacteria in close contact with the gums. This creates areas where new plaque, food debris and more bacteria may attach.

Why is plaque and tartar such a big deal?

Plaque and tartar deposits are major factors in causing periodontal (gum) disease, which left untreated can lead to bad breath and tooth loss. Research shows that fighting plaque is a life-long component of oral care.

How can I fight plaque?

Plaque begins forming on teeth soon after eating. It is important to brush at least twice a day and floss daily to control plaque. A healthy diet is connected to good oral health and the reduction of plaque build-up.

How can I fight tartar?

Each person’s susceptibility to plaque and tartar formation is different. We know it is related to the composition of saliva and the types of bacteria present in the mouth. Due to the unique nature of each individual, it is important that you discuss with your dentist what treatment is right for you. It is not possible for you to remove calculus without the help of a dental professional.

We can help you fight tartar, plaque and periodontal disease, and to maintain a lifetime of oral health, by:

  • Recommending a daily home care routine
  • Making sure you do not have faulty restorations or poor fitting removable dentures that may contribute to further accumulation of plaque and tartar
  • Providing an individualized prophylaxis schedule - this professional maintenance is more than just a ‘really good cleaning!’

Where can I find more information?

  • American Academy of Periodontology - Gum Disease: What You Need to Know | Keep a Healthy Smily for Life |Pregnancy & Oral Health | Gum Disease & Diabetes | Gum Disease & Your Heart
  • American Dental Association: Plaque | Oral Health | Periodontal (Gum) Diseases
  • Wisconsin Dental Association: What is periodontal disease? | Gum disease affects more than just your teeth

For additional dental health resources visit our index of resources


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