What is Plaque?

Standard
English: Photographic representation of calcul...

English: Photographic representation of calculus on the lingual of the mandibular anterior teeth. (Photo credit: Wikipedia

Inadequate removal of plaque caused a build up...

Inadequate removal of plaque caused a build up of calculus (dark yellow color) near the gums on almost all the teeth. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Definition:

Plaque is a sticky, colourless film of bacteria and sugars that constantly forms on our teeth. It is the main cause of cavities and gum disease, and can harden into tartar if not removed daily.

How Do I Know if I Have Plaque?

Everyone develops plaque because bacteria are constantly forming in our mouths. These bacteria use ingredients found in our diet and saliva to grow.

Plaque causes cavities when the acids from plaque attack teeth after eating. With repeated acid attacks, the tooth enamel can break down and a cavity may form. Plaque that is not removed can also irritate the gums around your teeth, leading to gingivitis (red, swollen, bleeding gums), periodontal disease and tooth loss.

How Can I Prevent Plaque Build-up?

It’s easy to prevent plaque build-up with proper care. Make sure to:

  • Brush thoroughly at least twice a day to remove plaque from all surfaces of your teeth
  • Floss daily to remove plaque from between your teeth and under your gum line, where your toothbrush may not reach
  • Limit sugary or starchy foods, especially sticky snacks
  • Schedule regular dental visits for professional cleanings and dental examinations.

What is Tartar?

Tartar, sometimes called calculus, is plaque that has hardened on your teeth. Tartar can also form at and underneath the gumline and can irritate gum tissues. Tartar gives plaque more surface area on which to grow and a much stickier surface to adhere, which can lead to more serious conditions, such as cavities and gum disease. Not only can tartar threaten the health of your teeth and gums, it is also a cosmetic problem. Because tartar is more porous, it absorbs stains easily. So if you are a coffee or tea drinker, or if you smoke, it is especially important to prevent tartar build-up.

How do I Know if I Have Tartar Build-up?

Unlike plaque, which is a colourless film of bacteria, tartar is a mineral build-up that’s fairly easy to see if above the gum line. The most common sign of tartar is a yellow or brown colour to teeth or gums. The only way for sure to detect tartar — and to remove it — is to see your dentist.

How can I Prevent Tartar Build-up?

Proper brushing, especially with a tartar control toothpaste, and flossing are necessary to reduce plaque and tartar build-up. Once tartar has formed, only your dentist or hygienist can remove it. The process for removing tartar is called scaling.

During a scaling, the dentist or hygienist uses special instruments to remove tartar from your teeth above and below the gum line.

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