Your teeth are covered by enamel, which makes them hard, durable, and able to handle wear and tear for many years. However, by allowing plaque to build up and harden on your tooth enamel, you increase the risk of developing tartar and associated oral health issues.

Often, tartar can compromise your dental health and increase your likelihood of developing gum disease. So, it’s important to understand the difference between plaque and tartar, their signs and symptoms, and how to prevent both to protect your overall dental health.

What is Plaque?

Plaque is a soft, sticky film that accumulates on your teeth due to bacteria mixing with saliva and food.

Harmful bacteria typically produce acids after you drink or eat, especially when you consume sugary foods or beverages. These acids then attack the enamel on your teeth, resulting in more serious issues for your dental and overall health. When left unaddressed, plaque can harden on your teeth and turn into tartar, causing your gums to become swollen and tender – an early stage of gum or periodontal disease.

The common symptoms of plaque include:

  • Chronic bad breath.
  • A fuzzy feeling on the teeth.
  • Tender, swollen, or red gums that may bleed when brushed.

What is Tartar?

When plaque sits on your teeth longer than it should, it combines with minerals in your saliva and turns into tartar, sometimes called calculus. Tartar forms a hard coating on the exterior of your teeth or settles below your gum line, making it harder to clean your teeth.

Once tartar spreads below your gumline, a dental hygienist or periodontist will need to remove it promptly to prevent periodontal disease. At its early stage, periodontal disease or gingivitis exhibits symptoms such as swollen, bleeding, or red gums.

If left untreated, gingivitis can progress and become periodontitis, causing your gums to pull away from your teeth. Over time, it may also cause your teeth to loosen and even fall out in more advanced cases.

The common symptoms of tartar include:

  • Swollen gum tissue.
  • A rough feeling on the teeth.
  • Gums that bleed easily.

Prevention and Treatment

You can eliminate plaque from your teeth through daily brushing and flossing. However, tartar needs to be removed through cleanings by a dental professional.

Here are some ways to prevent plaque buildup and consequently prevent tartar:

  • Brush your teeth for 2 minutes at least twice each day.
  • Floss every day.
  • Visit a dentist every six months for a routine checkup and cleaning.
  • Limit sugary foods and drinks and brush your teeth after enjoying sugary treats.

Besides regular oral hygiene and professional cleanings, a dentist may also suggest other preventive treatment methods such as fluoride. If you’re prone to cavities, you may want to consult with your dentist regarding preventive resin restoration, or PRR. A PRR is applied to your molars to remove deeper pits and fissures and help protect your teeth against decay in those areas. Always get regular dental checkups and cleanings every six or nine months to monitor and protect your oral health.

The Bottom Line

Allowing plaque to sit for too long on your teeth can cause tartar to form, destroying your tooth enamel and raising your risks of developing gum disease. Fortunately, by practicing good oral hygiene, you can eliminate plaque buildup and minimize the risk of tartar forming on your teeth and gums. More importantly, always schedule routine dental exams and cleanings with your Lynhurst Dental health professional. Visit to contact us and book you next appointment!

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