WE OFTEN GET THE QUESTION from our patients, “What’s the difference between plaque and tartar?” Many people think they are the same thing. There is an important difference between the two, however, and it can help explain just why a daily oral hygiene routine is so crucial, as well as twice-yearly visits to your dentist.
What Is Plaque?
Dental plaque is that soft, sticky film that builds up on your teeth and under your gums throughout the day. And guess what? It contains millions of bacteria! When you eat—especially carbohydrates or sugar—you’re not the only one getting a meal, so are the bacteria on your teeth. After “eating,” these bacteria produce acids that erode your tooth enamel and cause cavities.
That’s why good daily oral hygiene is essential to preventing tooth decay and protecting your smile from the bacteria in plaque. To prevent plaque buildup, remember to brush at least twice a day and floss once a day. Drinking water and chewing sugar-free gum after meals and snacks can also help!
What Is Tartar?
So if that’s plaque, what’s tartar? Tartar is what accumulates on your teeth when plaque is not removed. If plaque is left on your teeth for too long, it will harden into tartar and is much more difficult to remove. In fact, tartar can only be removed by a dental professional–you can’t get rid of it with regular brushing and flossing. Tartar removal is one of the reasons that visiting your dentist every six months is so important!
Plaque buildup that hardens into tartar can cause more than just cavities. It can cause tooth discoloration and sensitivity as well as gum recession and periodontal disease. To reduce tartar formation, make sure you get rid of plaque by brushing and flossing daily.
Orthodontic Treatment Can Help
It is harder to get into those little nooks and crannies between the teeth when they are crooked or crowded, making brushing and flossing more difficult. Overlapping teeth can even trap food particles, leading to more severe plaque buildup and a higher risk of tooth decay. Straight teeth allow for easier brushing and flossing and thus, less plaque!
You Deserve A Beautiful, Healthy Smile
No matter how great your oral hygiene is, plaque and tartar formation are inevitable. So despite your regular visits to the orthodontist, make sure to see your general dentist every six months as well. As dental professionals, it’s our job is to help you maintain a beautiful, healthy smile that’s plaque- and tarter-free!