You may have heard the terms, plaque, tartar, and calculus and wondered what the difference was between them. Mostly, they are spoken of in a way that leads you to believe they are all enemies of good oral health, right? But how are they different, or are they?
- Plaque – You have probably heard your San Pablo, CA dentist mention many times how important good oral hygiene is for your oral health. One reason is plaque. Plaque is a substance that forms continuously on tooth enamel. You have to stay on top of your oral hygiene routine to make sure you keep it from building up. If plaque is not addressed, it can lead to other oral health problems.
- Tartar – If you allow plaque buildup, it will harden and turn into tartar. Tartar leads to tooth decay and numerous other dental problems. It can make a gum infection worse. Brushing alone isn’t enough to remove tartar. You’ll need the help of a dental professional to get rid of it before it causes tooth decay.
- Calculus – Plaque and tartar are two totally different things. But tartar and calculus are the same thing. Calculus, or tartar, as you have read, can negatively impact your oral health. Good oral habits like brushing your teeth twice daily and routine exams by Dr. Edwin Kim can help prevent plaque buildup which leads to calculus.
How Tartar Impacts Your Gums
Tartar forms from plaque buildup that is caused by bacteria which is ever-present in the mouth. Untreated tartar on the teeth puts your oral health at risk and can lead to issues such as:
- Bad breath
- Gum disease (or periodontal disease)
In its various stages, periodontal disease can cause irreversible damage to your oral health, teeth, and gums. If left untreated, tartar buildup can lead to tooth loss. This demonstrates why it’s important to visit with a dental professional who can take care of oral issues before they get out of hand.
How Tartar or Calculus Develops
Plaque begins to form because of a mix of foods and proteins that form a buildup on the teeth. It starts to work its way into the crevices of the teeth, inside the gum line, and in those hard-to-reach areas making it hard to combat it. When dental plaque hardens, calculus forms. This helps provide an ideal surface for plaque to continue to form. Calculus forms along the gum line and in the narrow areas between the teeth. Regular brushing and flossing can help prevent plaque buildup and calculus. Once calculus forms on plaque, it’s too hard to remove with a toothbrush. A dental professional will need to remove tartar buildup with specialized tools.
Why is it crucial to remove tartar?
Gingivitis is usually the beginning of periodontal disease. If plaque is not removed from your teeth, it starts to accumulate along the gumline. Bacteria in the plaque can irritate and infect gum tissues leading to gingivitis. If plaque is not removed and tartar is allowed to build up, it can lead to more serious gum disease and dental conditions. Removing tartar helps prevent periodontal disease and helps keep your teeth and gums healthy.
The Dangers of DIY Plaque Scraping
A dental professional at San Pablo Dental Care is extensively trained in dental scaling and scraping. They know exactly what to look for and how to remove plaque and tartar safely. Even though you may think it is a simple task that you could perform at home, misuse can be harmful. You may be tempted to grab a DIY dental scraper and attempt to scrape your own teeth. Failing to realize that scrapers and dental scalers are specialized medical equipment that requires training to use safely can cause damage including:
- Damage to delicate gum tissue leading to gum recession
- Scratching teeth enamel which can cause tooth sensitivity
- Injury to soft tissue like your cheeks, or tongue
- Causing infections by accidentally pushing tartar below the gumline
Removing Plaque Safely
If you are concerned about plaque buildup, visit Dr. Kim. They can examine your mouth to determine if you have plaque or tartar buildup or other dental problems that need attention. Plaque can be removed safely by a trained dental professional like Dr. Kim or a dental hygienist. Even though it’s not safe to use a DIY plaque scaler at home, there are a few things you can do to help. Floss your teeth once daily and brush them twice a day using a fluoride toothpaste and a soft-bristled toothbrush. Plaque removal is essentially important to your oral health, but it’s not a safe DIY project.
Why Visit Your Dentist at Least Twice a Year?
Regular visits to San Pablo Dental Care can help manage plaque and tartar buildup so that some problems are prevented before they get the chance to start. Scheduling a teeth cleaning every six months can keep your teeth pretty and white, but it’s about more than that. Exams with Dr. Kim include an assessment of your overall oral health including your tongue, throat, neck, face, and head. By examining these areas, Dr. Edwin Kim can often detect other ailments or diseases like swelling, redness, diabetes, or cancer. Schedule twice a year dental checkups also helps with accountability. You’ll be more inclined to brush and floss regularly between visits if you know you have a dental exam coming up soon.
Is it time for your routine dental exam?
Call us today to schedule your next exam and stay ahead of plaque and tartar buildup. You can also use our appointment request form to schedule an appointment with Dr. Kim. Let us help you keep your healthy smile!