Plaque and Tartar — What’s the Difference?

Plaque and Tartar Prevention

You’ve heard a lot of talk about plaque and tartar and how each negatively affects your teeth, but it makes you wonder, are they the same thing? Is one is worse than the other?

And most importantly, what can you do to prevent either from becoming an issue at your next dental visit?

Plaque: A Sticky, Acidic Film

Plaque is unavoidable — it’s a thin, sticky, colorless film that builds up on the gumline throughout the day as you eat and drink. It contains bacteria, and the acids in it attack the enamel on your teeth, potentially causing cavities. It also can cause your gums to become inflamed, and they may bleed easily when you floss.

Plaque builds up quickly — within four hours — and it must be removed in the morning and at night after you are finished eating.

Tartar: A Serious Problem

If you ignore plaque buildup on your teeth, it won’t be long before it turns into tartar. Tartar is hardened plaque that is yellow or brown. Though it is hard, it still has pores, which allow bacteria to infiltrate the tooth enamel and cause decay.

While plaque can be removed by brushing and flossing, tartar cannot. Only your dentist can completely remove all the tartar from your teeth with specific instruments designed to scrape it away.

Here’s How You Can Prevent Both

It’s not enough to brush your teeth every once in a while. To completely rid your mouth of plaque, you must stick to a strict schedule, brushing for at least two minutes, twice per day.

It’s also important to floss. The spaces between your teeth accumulate plaque and are more likely to accumulate tartar as well if you ignore this step in your oral hygiene routine.

Even those who are extremely conscientious about their oral health may develop tartar at some point. That’s why it’s important to regularly visit your dentist.

When you get a professional cleaning every six months, your dentist can pinpoint and eliminate tartar buildup, giving you tips on how to customize your daily oral hygiene habits to prevent future tartar problems. This may include providing counsel on whether you require orthodontic correction. Those with misaligned teeth are more likely to accumulate tartar because of the difficulty in brushing and flossing in tight, awkward spaces.

If you’re worried about how plaque and tartar are affecting your smile, schedule an appointment with Oak Hills Dentistry and get a professional’s opinion, along with an in-depth cleaning to restore your oral health.