What is Tartar and How to Prevent it

Plaque and tartar: two words that you have most likely heard in your dentist’s office, and (if you’re lucky) hopefully not during your dental exam! Surprisingly, however, many do not know the proper care and prevention for these dental issues. Lots of us are unaware of what causes plaque and tartar. In this article, we will discuss why tartar is such an issue, and ways to prevent it. You can even help yourself by eating certain foods!

To start with the basics, we will discuss the difference between tartar and plaque. Plaque begins with bacteria that builds up on the teeth, which then interacts with food and saliva in the mouth. The most troublesome area for plaque buildup is the top of the tooth around the crevices between teeth and gums. Tartar is really just as a severe case of plaque buildup. Once plaque hardens, tartar is formed, and it then becomes a hard brownish substance. The troublesome area is again, around the gums, which are the hardest areas to clean. Cleaning becomes even more difficult if the gums bleed, and this increases the chances for the problem to worsen.

Don’t be discouraged, though, because preventing these issues is actually quite easy! Proper dental hygiene will not only prevent plaque and tartar, but even help you at your next dental exam. It can be costly to remove tartar, because it cannot be done at home, so the best advice is to practice good habits before tartar has a chance to develop. To do so, all it takes is to keep up with a few basics: flossing, brushing your teeth regularly, and dental exams/cleanings every six months.

Brushing your teeth needs to occur at least twice a day with appropriate bacterial fighting toothpastes containing fluoride. Brushing should be supplemented with flossing once a day (or more frequently if you like). With that said, dental exams are recommended to keep plaque buildup in check and identify any unseen issues.

Certain eating habits are known to reduce the risks of plaque and tartar, as well. Dentists will tell you that our worst enemy when it comes to our teeth and gums is sugar, so they will stress the avoidance of candy and soda. But there are even some foods you can eat preventatively. Hard foods, for example, like carrots and celery, have the ability to strengthen gums, which helps fight against plaque and the build up of tartar. Another way to naturally clean your teeth is by eating acidic fruits like grapefruit. The acid in these fruits helps clean and whiten teeth, and will definitely prevent bacteria from making a home in your mouth.

Usually, plaque and tartar can be avoided by following these simple guidelines. However, if there is a problem, it is very important to seek professional help by scheduling a dental exam. Once tartar sets in the mouth it cannot be removed at home. Staying on top of these appointments and professional cleanings will prevent future issues and guarantee healthy teeth and a beautiful smile! If you have questions about this topic, just ask your dentist.